Photo: File photo
The Drake women’s soccer team boarded the bus for Illinois last weekend, as they travelled to Normal to take on Illinois State. Hopeful for a win to start Missouri Valley Conference play, the Bulldogs faced a notoriously athletic Redbird team on Sunday with a game plan in mind, aiming to best their defensively and offensively skilled rival.
The Redbirds, however, left the Bulldogs directionless in the 2-0 conference opening shutout.
“Illinois State’s overall athleticism in midfield and up top was the biggest difference between the two teams,” Drake head coach Lindsey Horner said.
The Illinois State offense proved dominant early, scoring a goal in the 24th minute. The Redbirds’ defense was also troublesome for the Bulldogs, who were limited to just five shots in the contest, compared to the Redbirds’ 32 shots. Senior forward Danielle Figliola recorded a team-high two shots for the Bulldogs.
Drake’s hopes for an offensive push fell short until the 78th minute when sophomore forward Gina Zurbey’s shot ricocheted off the goalpost.
The Illinois State offense sealed the victory during the last moments of the game when Mia Patrevito sent the ball past Drake sophomore keeper Kalena Litch on a header in the 87th minute.
“We can’t do much about our stature, but we can adjust our mentality and focus when we are defending our box,” Horner said.
Again, Drake’s attempts were impeded by the Redbird defense, and the game’s final minutes passed without a change in score and without a tally on the board for the Bulldogs.
Just the first MVC game this season, the Bulldogs are determined to learn from Sunday’s tough loss.
“We’ve done a good job of denying goals in the run of play, but we are getting punished on corner kicks and free kicks,” Horner said.
With more difficult games around the bend, Horner said the Bulldogs will work to improve both corner kicks and free kicks as well as take advantage of Drake’s three home conference games this year.
“Every game in our conference is going to be a battle this season. Illinois State and Creighton have dangerous front-runners, and Missouri State’s backline is always hard to break down,” said Horner.
Beyond the turf, the Drake women’s soccer team has an array of leaders, underclassmen and upperclassmen alike, and Horner said their presence is critical to moving forward in the MVC this season.
“Some have experience, some lead by example and some are very vocal,” she said. “Regardless of our leaders’ approach, they are realizing that they have to be consistent to be effective, and this is what we’ll need from them during our conference season.”
Despite falling to Illinois State on Sunday, Horner is seeking nothing less than a victory for her team at the State Farm MVC Tournament in early November.
“Our focus is to improve every game,” she said.
The Bulldogs have been working to do just that in the days between Sunday’s loss and tomorrow’s contest against Indiana State, which is at Cownie Soccer Complex at 7 p.m.
Tomorrow’s game also marks Drake’s “KICK Cancer” fundraiser sponsored by the American Cancer Society. Players will sport purple jerseys, and the game-worn shirts will be auctioned off at the end of the match. The first 100 fans can look forward to free “KICK Cancer” purple T-shirts.