Story by Will Thornton
Despite hard-fought games against well-ranked opposition, Drake University men’s soccer team recorded two disappointing losses this weekend to begin the 2013 campaign.
The team posted a 4-2 defeat to California Polytechnic State University on Friday and was shut out 3-0 on Sunday in their game against 14th national RPI-ranked University of Tulsa.
Friday’s game against Cal Poly began well for the Bulldogs with senior midfielder Bryan Jantsch picking up a goal in the eigth minute after redshirt freshman midfielder Ben LeMay fed him a well-placed cross behind the sparse defense.
The lead did not last long, however, as Cal Poly responded with a goal of their own in the 15th minute. Coach Sean Holmes and Drake players alike agreed the goal was primarily luck, as Cal Poly redshirt freshman forward John Chronopoulos hit a cross toward the net of senior Drake goalkeeper Rich Gallagher and managed to curl it into the far corner.
“They definitely got lucky,” said freshman Drake midfielder Mueng Sunday, who played the full 90 minutes against Cal Poly. “But we’d like to think that we’re good enough to beat bad luck anyway.”
The half ended 1-1, but such a fluky goal to even the score surely dampened the Bulldogs’ spirits.
The game remained well-contested throughout the second half with neither side able to break through the others’ defense until sophomore Drake forwards Danton Irelan and Eric Williams teamed up to give Irelan an open shot and goal in the 74th minute.
Drake’s 2-1 lead was again short-lived, for less than two minutes later, Cal Poly got a penalty kick when a disorganized defense led to an inevitable chance on goal stopped by a Drake foul. Cal Poly, senior forward Mackenzie Pridham confidently sank the free shot and equalized again for the Mustangs.
The shoddy defense that gave Pridham the penalty kick couldn’t hold off the last ten minutes of Cal Poly’s offensive onslaught and Pridham assisted a goal in the 81st minute by senior Cal Poly midfielder Mike Hocker that took a lucky deflection off Gallagher’s right post into the net.
Pridham killed Drake’s hopes of a late equalizer just four seconds before the end of the match with his second goal as Drake’s desperation became apparent.
Sunday’s game against Tulsa was unfortunately no better, as the opposing side took the lead in the 17th minute when junior defender Tony Rocha’s shot redirected off of the goalpost and into the goal.
Drake’s defense remained confused and chaotic as Tulsa took advantage of the weakness in the 35th minute when a Drake defender lost the ball in front of goal and senior Tulsa forward Kyle Cummings took an easy, uncontested shot to increase the lead to 2-0.
The second half showed that Drake had not lost all hope, as the Bulldogs matched the Golden Hurricane on corner kicks and made Tulsa’s senior goalkeeper, Cody Mumma, work with six shots compared to Tulsa’s seven.
Regrettably, Tulsa took better advantage of their set pieces as freshman Tulsa midfielder Ray Saari swung in a corner kick in the 72nd minute that was headed into a goal by sophomore forward Bryce Follensbee, creating a 3-0 deficit for the Bulldogs that lasted the rest of the game.
Despite the losses, goalkeeper Rich Gallagher expressed the team’s satisfaction with the performances.
“I don’t think there’s anything to be scared about,” Gallagher said. “We’re getting the hard part done and creating chances.”
Head coach Sean Holmes was also satisfied with the team’s work in both games, at least offensively and put the pressure on the Bulldogs’ veterans to bring the team up to winning levels.
“When all your seniors are firing on all pistons, that’s when you win the games you need to win,” Holmes said.
Drake men’s soccer continues their season in Milwaukee on Friday when they take on University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, following up on Sunday with a game against Marquette University.