Story by Will Thornton
Saturday was a great day to be a Bulldog as Drake men’s soccer played its first conference matchup at Evansville and won by a handy score of 4-1.
The Bulldogs’ trip to Evansville put a certain damper on, their spirits early on when the Purple Aces earned their first corner kick in the eighth minute of play.
Sophomore Evansville forward Faik Hajderovic took the corner and found junior defender Patrick Hodges, whose header found its way past the Bulldog defense and into goal.
The early lead lasted about 17 minutes before redshirt freshman Ben LeMay played a through ball into the Evansville box. Junior forward Thomas Schermoly collected the pass and beat junior Evansville keeper Eric Teppen to level the score.
At halftime, Evansville had attempted 11 shots at the Drake goal and had forced five saves from redshirt freshman goalkeeper Darrin MacLeod and a goal line clearance from the Bulldog defense.
“Darrin (MacLeod) was again terrific in goal making a bunch of saves,” said Drake head coach Sean Holmes in a Drake athletics press release.
“For him to play in six games and only surrender one goal is a testament to his ability and the cohesion of our players on our backline.”
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs only managed five shots at the Evansville goal and only forced one save from Teppen.
While the second half wasn’t much different in terms of statistics, with Drake registering just four shots to Evansville’s ten, the tide quickly turned in the Bulldogs’ favor.
Just four minutes into the second half, sophomore defender Austin Reutzel played a long ball over the Evansville defense and found Schermoly again, whose left foot proved as lethal, as his right and put the Bulldogs up 2-1.
Schermoly was substituted five minutes later for sophomore forward Danton Irelan, who made his impact in the 58th minute.
Senior Drake midfielder Bryan Jantsch made his way down the right wing and swung a cross into the Evansville box, where it found the head of Irelan and the back of the net thereafter.
Evansville maintained offensive momentum for most of the second half, but the Bulldogs continued to make their possessions more meaningful.
Just 90 seconds after seeing the field in a substitution for sophomore Drake midfielder Alex Troester, sophomore Brandon Welter played a free kick to the near post that found Thomas Schermoly yet again.
Schermoly used his head this time, putting the ball in the goal for a third time to complete his hat-trick and put the Bulldogs well ahead at 4-1 with 10 minutes left to play.
“Thomas was on fire today,” Holmes said. “We’re a team that doesn’t take many wasteful shots and he showed that with three goals in three shots.”
Drake held off the last few offensive pushes from the Purple Aces and continued its five-game unbeaten and four-game winning streaks.
Drake was in the company of Missouri State University and Southern Illinois having won their Missouri Valley openers.
Bradley University has yet to begin conference play, but the Bulldogs currently hold the top spot by having won by three goals.
“Losing the opening game in the conference always feels like you’re playing catch-up,” Holmes explained.
“In the wide scope of things, September doesn’t really matter. Being in pole position for the conference is a great feeling.”
The Bulldogs continue their run of road games on Tuesday when they travel to Madison, Wis., to take on the University of Wisconsin Badgers.