STORY BY ADAM ROGAN
For the past 10 years, the Illinois State Redbirds have dominated the Drake Bulldogs, winning every meeting between the two teams.
That streak is now over.
Drake came back from a 2-0 deficit in the final 20 minutes of Saturday’s game to start the conference season with a win.
Drake started out behind for the eighth straight match, giving up a goal in the ninth minute.
“(We need to be) ready to go defensively especially,” senior midfielder Emma Winstead said. “We get really hyped up to go score goals, so sometimes that lets us slip a little bit on defense.”
The Redbirds extended their lead to two early in the second half.
Knowing that tick on the clock made a comeback even more unlikely, Drake went on the attack.
Junior forward Rebecca Rodgers broke the scoring seal for the Bulldogs when she put the ball passed the keeper in the 72nd minute, her fourth goal of the season, to cut Illinois State’s lead to one.
Three minutes later the match was tied when a corner kick from Kayla Armstrong found defender Sarah Grace Nicholson, who headed the ball into the back of the net.
The corner gave Armstrong her second assist of the match, earning her an MVC Offensive Player of the Week award.
“We had momentum for a couple minutes so we took it and we ran with it,” Nicholson said. “Kayla played a perfect ball to me and I got some separation from the defender and found the net.”
The defining goal of the match came in the 86th minute, again on a corner kick. In this case it was not so much from late game heroics, but instead a little bit of luck that bounced in the Bulldogs’ favor.
“Luck goes one way or another, you can’t control it,” Nicholson said.
The Redbirds initially managed to clear a corner kick, but Drake sophomore Ali Smith lifted the ball back into the box. The Redbirds attempted to clear the ball once again, but a misplayed header turned into an own goal and a Drake 3-2 lead.
The Bulldog defense held on as the clock wound down and Drake walked off the field in triumph.
“Everyone wanted it and everyone knew that defense was the most important thing at the end of the game,” Winstead said.
The victory also extended Drake’s road win streak to two.
“The whole team is just super pumped, because that’s obviously just a big win coming into the season,” Nicholson said. “We’re all just ready to get some more wins under our belt and take that momentum and move forward.”
The MVC season will continue on Friday night when Indiana State travels to Des Moines.
“I think the league is wide open,” head coach Lindsey Horner said. “I don’t know that there will be a favorite in any game we play.”