PHOTO BY CASSANDRA BAUER
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE BY ADAM ROGAN
It’s starting to become a theme of the Drake Women’s Soccer season, but the Bulldogs won again in shutout fashion on the evening of Sept. 14 with goals being delivered from throughout the roster, both scorers coming off the bench.
Drake defeated the Western Illinois Leathernecks 2-0 on the evening of Sept. 14 in the Bulldogs’ final home match before the conference season.
Not only were the teams battling each other, but were fighting for grip on dew-covered grass, leading to several slips and falls, while also dealing with packs of irritating mosquitos under the nighttime lights of Cownie Field.
The first half ended rather uneventfully. There were only four shots on goal in the first 45 minutes, all of which came on prayers from outside the goalie box. Neither team was able to out-dribble the other’s defense, forcing the Bulldogs to rely on crosses for shot creation.
“They were really packing it in on us,” junior defender Kasey Hurt said. “We were trying to get it wide, trying to get a cross off, trying to make something happen.”
Both sides came out aggressively in the second half, the first 15 minutes defined by attacks and counterattacks.
Drake had several lead passes that rolled just a tad too far and were scooped up by the Western Illinois’ goalkeeper.
The Leathernecks would then bring the ball downfield, only to turn it over in turn. Drake would mount another attack, several of which ended in crosses that landed behind the Bulldog attackers, ceasing forward progression and the ball would be sent back downfield by the Leathernecks.
The overly strong passes were actually part of Drake’s strategy after halftime. Head coach Lindsey Horner had advised defenders to “overhit” the ball — meaning to send it in front of the attackers and defenders, letting their teammates battle for it in an attacking position rather than making a conservative pass in front of the defense.
Even with passing that deliberately risked giving the ball back to WIU, Drake started to dominate possession. The Leathernecks didn’t even record a shot in the second half. The Bulldogs would end up with 17 shots in the match, six of them on goal.
“We were patient on the outside,” freshman forward Shelley Lyjak said. “We’re pretty fast at top, so we knew we could get it in if they hit it over.”
The first score came in the 73rd minute on Drake’s fourth shot of the half.
Hurt found space in the attacking third and launched a cross to the far post into a mess of Leatherneck defenders and Bulldog attackers. Lyjak battled for position and was able to deflect the ball goalwards. It slipped beneath the approaching goalkeeper and trickled across the goal line for Lyjak’s first career goal.
“The first time Kasey (Hurt) hits a proper ball that she overhit, she gets an assist,” Horner said, having seen her advice pay off in the form of a winner.
Two minutes later, Lyjak nearly doubled down for her second goal of the match. She prevented a clearance in WIU’s box and blasted a shot towards the upper-left corner of the goal, only to have it tipped over the crossbar by the Leatherneck’s leaping goalie.
WIU got more aggressive after falling behind 1-0, but didn’t threaten the Drake net much. For the most part, the Bulldog defense prevented the Leathernecks from having any prolonged possession in the attacking third.
With less than 11 minutes left, WIU’s keeper made another diving save to prevent a goal by sophomore forward Tawny Carroll. Less than 60 seconds later, Carroll had another chance.
Sophomore defender Carling Goold took a ground pass from a corner kick and crossed it to the far post. Carroll sent it into the back of the net.
It was Carroll’s second goal of the season and Goold’s first assist.
Drake goalkeeper Brooke Dennis recorded two saves in the match and the third clean sheet of her senior campaign, preserving Drake’s untarnished 7-0-1 record.
“We feel like we need to come out and perform,” Hurt said. “There is a little bit of pressure on us because … we’re doing so well. We need to keep it up and keep our mentality going.”
Horner and the rest of the coaching staff have been hoping to keep the team’s mind off of its current success. They want the Bulldogs to stay relaxed and motivated without getting held up by nerves or fear of mistakes.
“We’re doing a good job of not letting them focus so much on a streak,” Horner said. “We’re trying to minimize any pressure.”
Up next, the Bulldogs will travel northward on Sunday for a road match against an offensively minded South Dakota State University Jackrabbits.
“Their forwards stay wide, and they’re going to try to stretch us,” Horner said.
Sunday’s game is one of the Bulldog’s last two matches before conference begins. Drake will host the Evansville University Purple Aces on Sept. 25, the first Missouri Valley Conference matchup for both teams.