Drake eyes first-round bye
The Drake women’s soccer team boasts an unbeaten record at Cownie Soccer Complex, and it will look to maintain that streak to avoid a first-round match in the Missouri Valley Conference quarterfinals on Sunday.
The Bulldogs (12-4-2, 3-0-2 MVC) look to complete the regular season with a win against Illinois State tonight at 6 p.m. at Cownie Soccer Complex. A victory would give the Bulldogs their first outright MVC regular season title since 2006 and guarantee a first-round bye.
Since Evansville has completed league play and finished with a 4-1-1 record, the Bulldogs control their own fate.
The stakes are especially high at home, where the Bulldogs boast a 9-0 record. Drake has never finished a season undefeated at home and has only finished unbeaten in league play once.
Drake’s impressive Cownie Soccer Complex record isn’t solely thanks to the hometown advantage, though. Head coach Lindsey Horner credited the Bulldogs’ focus.
“Being undefeated at Cownie (Soccer Complex) should provide our players with confidence going into the game,” Horner said in an email. “We aren’t undefeated at home simply because we are at home, but because we have brought the right mentality, played with an edge and the level of focus necessary to get results.”
The Redbirds (10-4-2, 3-2 MVC) sit in third place in the MVC. Drake has not defeated Illinois State since 2005, a span of nine games.Horner expects an “intense” match on Thursday.
“Illinois State is very dynamic and dangerous in the attack,” Horner said. “They have the talent to score goals quickly, but they are a bit inconsistent throughout 90 minutes, and teams have been able to get in behind their backs. Like us, Illinois State can earn a first-round bye, so the game is going to be intense.”
Sophomore forward Rachel Tejada leads the Illinois State attack with 14 goals on the season to go along with 61 shots. The Redbirds average 13.75 shots per game, ranking first in the MVC.
To counter the Redbirds’ dangerous offense, the Bulldogs look to play “disciplined” defense.
“Our players will have to put together a solid 90-minute performance that includes disciplined one-on-one defending, dominating central midfield defensively, taking care of the ball in our build-up and executing in front of goal,” Horner said.
If the Bulldogs tie against Illinois State on Thursday, they will earn a first-round bye as the No. 2 seed at the MVC Championship. If they lose, they will drop to the No. 3 seed and will have to take on Creighton on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Cownie Soccer Complex in the quarterfinals.
“We have five team goals this season, and one of them is to be playing in the championship game of the MVC tournament,” Horner said. “It is exciting that we control our seeding, and a win or tie on Thursday would set us up for a first-round bye.”
With the MVC Championship in mind, the Bulldogs look to unleash their best play yet.
“Once it is tournament time, we have to be peaking and playing our best soccer of the season,” Horner said.
A title-worthy performance motivates senior forward Laura Moklestad as her Drake career winds down.
“It just makes me want to go out there and more than ever, just leave everything on the field,” Moklestad said. “It’s crazy that it’s my last tournament, and I’m really excited at the thought that we could go all the way. We have a team that has done really well this year, and now it’s just that final push.”
The Bulldogs take on Illinois State at 6 p.m. tonight at Cownie Soccer Complex.