BY ADAM ROGAN
Standing at the top right corner of the box on Sunday night in Bakersfield, California, freshman Antonio Sanchez made a spin move around the California State University, Bakersfield defender to free up some space.
There were only two minutes left in the first overtime with the score still tied at zero, and the Bulldogs were down a man.
Sanchez crossed the ball just a few yards in front of the goal where the ball found the head a diving James Wypych who placed the ball out of the goalie’s reach in the top-right corner of the net; a 98th minute golden goal to give the Bulldogs their first win of the year. It was Wypych’s 13th career goal – the most of any active Bulldog – and Sanchez’s first career assist in his second collegiate match.
Wypych was also named Missouri Valley Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Week.
That seems like it may become the story of the Drake 2016 Men’s Soccer season, with heroes coming the most experienced players to the newest. The biggest class on the team is the freshmen, closely followed by the seniors, meaning that there will be opportunities for players with four-year age gaps to connect on the field.
“Antonio Sanchez worked so hard to get in on the end of a long ball, whips in a beautiful cross and (Wypych) has the endeavor to get on the end of it when his legs are tired and most people wouldn’t expect him to get up and down the pitch,” MacLeod said in a post-match interview with Drake Communications.
Drake had been playing with only 10 players after senior defender Andre Heine was handed with his second yellow card in the 65th minute and ejected from the match.
“It’s really tough when you’re facing adversity, you’re down a man,” MacLeod said. “We’re telling ourselves that we’re tired, but we still managed to find that inner commitment and that inner desire to go out and get that winning goal.”
The Bulldog defense managed to shut out Bakersfield by limiting the Roadrunners to only nine shots. Redshirt senior goalkeeper Darrin MacLeod made three saves in the match, blanking the Roadrunners for his 16th career shutout, a new Drake record.
“We knew we had to step it up,” Wypych said in a post- match interview with Drake Communications. “I think it really showed today, not only the 11 guys that started on the field, but the entire squad.”
Drake’s non-starters certainly contributed in the match. Eight bench players saw playing time, including Sanchez who is the only freshman Bulldog to play so far this season.
The win elevated the Bulldogs to 1-1 on the year, having lost two days previous to the University of the Pacific Tigers.
After Drake struck first on Friday with a 19th minute chip shot from graduate senior Ben LeMay, the match was all Tigers. The Bulldogs were outshot 14-2 and LeMay’s shot was the only one on goal for Drake. Pacific scored three times in the first half, two of those goals coming unassisted.
The two games showed opposite scripts, with Drake scoring late on Sunday versus the early goal on Friday, not to mention the contrasting results on defense.
“After Friday’s loss, we were really disappointed in ourselves,” MacLeod said. “Our main goal and theme of (Sunday’s match) was making sure we were committing to every play and making sure we didn’t take a play off.”
The Bulldogs will be on the road again this weekend. They will travel to Omaha, Nebraska, for a match against the University of Nebraska Omaha on Sept. 2. Their first home match won’t be for another couple weeks when Drake hosts the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay on Sept. 13.