STORY BY ADAM ROGAN
Drake continued to struggle against nonconference opponents as the Oklahoma State Cowgirls picked up a shutout. However, the Bulldogs turned it around against the Evansville Purple Aces on Saturday to remain undefeated in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Before that win however, Drake was simply dismantled by Oklahoma State from start to finish on Wednesday night in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Cowgirl Courtney Dike scored in the tenth minute to put her team on top. The Bulldogs offense was unable to respond with much. They managed to fire off a measly three shots in the first half, only one of which was on goal.
“We just need to take a lot of shots, make sure that they’re on target and (be) more dynamic in the final third,” said junior Rebecca Rodgers, who did not play against Oklahoma State.
The Cowgirls struck twice more early in the second half. Dike picked up an assist in the 47th minute and then followed up with her second goal of the match just over 11 minutes later.
Drake was able to take three more shots than the previous period, but still only managed to put two of them on goal. Oklahoma State’s goalkeeper would save both of them and the game ended 3-0.
One of the main hurdles for the Bulldogs in the match was the absence of Rodgers who has been a leader of the Drake offense.
Returning for a conference match against Evansville three days later, Rodgers made her presence felt.
A 37th minute free kick from Kylie DeHaven found Rodgers in the box for a header that she put into the back of the net. This put the Bulldogs on top quickly, but the lead wouldn’t last long.
The Purple Aces moved the ball up the field quickly after the ensuing kickoff. An attempted Bulldog clearance led to a miscue and the ball found itself in the Drake net for an own goal.
With the match tied, Rodgers took it upon herself to get the Bulldogs back in the lead. Her best chance came in the 67th minute and she did not disappoint.
From 20 yards out and with a wall of defenders in front of her, Rodgers curled a free kick past the Purple Aces’ defense and goalkeeper for a goal.
Drake 2. Evansville 1.
Not only did Rodgers shine for the Bulldogs on offense, but their defense was impeccable as well.
Save for the own goal, the Purple Aces were unable to score throughout the match despite putting nine shots on goal.
“I’m glad I could help out the defense,” goalkeeper Brooke Dennis said. “We all really came together. It was nice to almost get a shutout … The defense really needed it.”
Drake only managed four shots on goal, three of which came from Rodgers and one from freshman Alyssa Brand.
Now with seven goals on the season, Rodgers is tied for second-most goals in the MVC. Four of those goals came against MVC opponents, the most in the conference.
Surprising to no one, Rodgers was named as the MVC Offensive Player of the Week for the second week in a row.
Her second goal against Evansville was also the 24th of Rodgers’s career, the third most of any Bulldog. The overall record of 31 career goals is within reach for Rodgers, who only needs eight more goals to become the top goal scorer in Drake history.
The MVC also took notice Dennis’s 18 saves in the past two games. She was named MVC Goalkeeper of the Week for the first time this season.
The recognition isn’t enough for the junior, however. She wants the team to be dominant on both halves of the pitch.
“I think we really need to get a shutout as a defensive part,” Dennis said. “And then we need to score some goals.”
The Bulldogs will return home for their final home matches of the season in the coming week. They will face off with Loyola on Oct. 17 followed by a match versus the University of Northern Iowa on Oct. 21.
The match against Northern Iowa will be the final match in Des Moines this season and the final home match of Drake’s seniors’ collegiate careers — Senior Night. Five Bulldogs will be honored on the field in one of the most emotional nights of the season.