STORY BY ADAM ROGAN
Before most students even arrived on campus, the Drake Women’s Soccer team had already begun their season, playing in four games before the start of the fall semester.
The Bulldogs came up short in their first match of the season against the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), but bounced back quickly and won their next two games against University of the Pacific and the University of South Dakota.
Their record dropped to 2-2, however, after falling to the South Dakota State University (SDSU) Jackrabbits on August 30.
“We’ve done all right up to this point,” head coach Lindsey Horner said. “I think 2-2 is a fair reflection of what we’re deserving of right now.”
Facing UMKC at home on August 21, Drake fell behind early, giving up a goal in just the 12th minute of the match.
The Bulldogs nearly tied the match back up as the first half drew to a close when junior Rebecca Rodgers had a chance to send a shot past UMKC goalkeeper Nina Tzianos, but the shot deflected off the crossbar.
Both teams finished with seven shots on goal, but UMKC walked away with a 1-0 shutout victory.
Two days later, Pacific travelled to Des Moines to take on Drake at Cownie Soccer Complex.
Both teams scored in the first half. Hannah Wilder was the one who put Drake on the board, sending a rebound into the back of the net after teammate Kasey Hurt’s shot was blocked by goalkeeper Melissa Ma.
The second half came and went without a goal being scored, and it looked as though the game might end in a 1-1 tie as the teams retook the field for the extra period.
Drake freshman Alyssa Brand had other plans. Taking possession of the ball near midfield, Brand fired a rocket towards the net. The ball glanced off of Ma’s hands and powered past into the goal, giving Drake the 2-1 win.
“That was really exciting… surreal,” Brand said. “(I was) happy to get the result for our team, because we worked hard and we deserved to win.”
Brand’s coach was pleased with the young forward’s performance.
“I think Alyssa can be a really dangerous player, but I think the exciting part about her game is that she’s nowhere near her potential,” Horner said. “She’s got a lot of learning to do and will be an even better player by the time she graduates.”
Following the overtime win, Drake travelled to Vermillion to face off with the University of South Dakota Coyotes for a game that ended up
being much less of a nailbiter than the last two were.
Brand scored her second collegiate goal early in the first half on an assist from sophomore Ali Smith to put Drake up 1-0.
Senior Emma Winstead extended the lead to two with her first goal of the season off of a corner kick from Kasey Hurt.
Four more goals came in the second half for the Bulldogs, courtesy of Rodgers, Vanessa Kavan, Mariah Boncek and Gabby Charles. The team also exemplified smart passing and decision-making, tallying four assists in the game.
“I think our best game comes out when we play together as a team and we all believe in each other,” Armstrong said.
The game ended as a 6-2 Drake victory in the team’s first road match of the season.
The win is sure to build the Bulldogs’ confidence as the season progresses, but Horner is trying to focus on the present.
“Obviously we want to compete for a championship, but I think this time in the year we’re laying the foundation for figuring out who we are and what we’re capable of,” Horner said.
Regardless of Horner’s practicality, dreams of a championship don’t seem farfetched. The Bulldogs are predicted to finish third in the conference and have three players who were named to the preseason all-conference team.
Drake took on SDSU under overcast skies on August 30 for their first and only match of the season at Drake Stadium.
The Jackrabbits got out to an early lead on a 12th minute goal by senior midfielder Alyssa Brazil, who slipped the ball past Dennis’s outstretched fingertips into the top-right corner of the goal.
Just a few minutes later, SDSU had a chance to extend their lead to two on a free kick taken from 40-plus yards out by junior midfielder Madison Yueill, but the ball was deflected out of bounds by Dennis.
Another scoring chance for the Jackrabbits came when Drake defender Sarah Grace Nicholson overplayed a pass in SDSU’s attacking third, but her hustle back to the ball helped turn what could have been a goal into a turnover.
The Bulldogs responded to the clutch defense with vigor, getting the ball back across midfield and generating some scoring chances of their own.
Junior midfielder Cayla Armstrong tied the game up for the Bulldogs in the 31st minute after receiving a through ball from Kavan behind enemy lines and beat the goalie to even the match at one.
Even though the game was tied after 45 minutes, the first half followed an unfortunate trend for the Bulldogs. In three of their first four games Drake has given up the first goal of the match, each of those goals coming within the first 25 minutes of play.
“We have to be more consistent,” Horner said. “We just aren’t starting games well. We can’t get to halftime and then decide its time to play with some urgency.”
That urgency might have been taken slightly too far, as Nicholson committed a foul in the box, leading to an SDSU penalty kick and goal just seven minutes into the second half.
Armstrong had a chance to tie the game back up in the 59th minute with her second goal of the game, but sent the ball sailing over the crossbar and through Drake Stadium’s field goal posts.
As the second half wore on, it became clear that both teams were growing sluggish and making more mistakes with the ball, but neither side was able to capitalize on the other’s errors.
Drake had plenty of chances to put the ball in the net and tie the game at two, but still came up short largely because SDSU goalkeeper Nicole Inskeep’s 11 saves.
The game resulted in a 2-1 road victory for the Jackrabbits.
The Bulldogs will play four road games over the next two weeks. Their next matchup will be against the University of Northern Colorado on Friday night, followed by a trip to Laramie, Wyoming to take on the University of Wyoming on Sunday.