By, DRAKE LOHSE
Coming into Sunday’s match with the Loyola Ramblers, the Drake Bulldogs had won four games in-a-row. That streak came to an end Sunday night—a 3-2 loss to Loyola in the championship game.
The Bulldogs season started out rocky, in their first 10 games, they went 3-7, but finished 9-9-1. They began this weekend’s MVC Tournament with a rematch against Evansville. The last time Drake squared off against Evansville, the outcome was nothing but a twelve-round bout between two defensive heavyweights, ending in a tie. Friday’s rematch would prove to be no different.
The Bulldogs came out firing, with junior Shelley Lyjak sending out a shot in the ninth minute. From there the momentum would only continue to halt for Drake, with early shots on goal taken by sophomore Hannah Bormann and junior Cassie Rohan, only to be saved by Evansville goalkeeper Michaela Till. In the 38th minute, sophomore Olivia Bruce would draw first blood with a swift goal from the corner—that is, until the kick was waved off on an offsides call.
Drake just couldn’t seem to catch an offensive break, but game wasn’t over. Sophomore Sam Nosler would attempt a shot on goal just minutes later, and in the waning seconds of the first half, Drake fired off a volley of three shots in a matter of seconds. As the first half came to a close, Drake had outshot the Purple Aces, 13-2. Despite the Bulldogs steady offensive efforts, the Purple Aces did plenty to create a unique challenge for Drake, and head coach Lindsey Horner highlighted as much after the game.
“Evansville dropped off quickly and deep with so many players, that there wasn’t any space to get in behind them,” Horner said. “When teams play a low block and let the players on the ball have a bit of space, sometimes we slow the game down, or settle for shots from distance. We were very much in control of the game, but couldn’t quite find the net in regulation.”
The second half was almost unrecognizable from the the first. Again, the Bulldogs would be hungry, sending shots off left and right. Again, the intensity of the Drake offensive attack was matched only by the solid effort of Evansville goalie Michaela Till who finished the game tallying 13 saves. For the second time this season, Evansville and Drake were heading to overtime. The outcome of their first matchup left a bitter taste in the mouths of the Bulldogs, and on Friday, the memory of that tie was buried in the heels and minds of Drake.
“There was an additional desire to win yesterday to avenge our tie,” Horner said. “We felt that in the regular season we should have won and the draw felt like a loss on senior day.” This weekend, however, would be different. In the 103rd minute of play, freshman Libby Helverson scooted a left-footer past Evansville for her second golden goal of the season. The weekend of action didn’t stop for the Bulldogs there. With the win on Friday, Drake was slated to rematch Loyola for the MVC Championship on Sunday—a goal that has been in their sights from the very first practice.
Freshman Allison Walls spoke from Chicago on the mindset of the Bulldogs heading into Sunday’s Championship. “Our team has our hearts set on winning the MVC tournament and we’ve done what we can to put us in a good position to accomplish that, now we just have to go out there and capitalize,” Walls said.
Loyola struck first with a penalty kick—only for Drake to match with a penalty kick of their own from Olivia Bruce. Bruce, who leads the team with six goals on the season, wouldn’t be done there. In the opening minutes of the second half, the sophomore netted her second goal of the game to give Drake a 2-1 lead. A string of saves by Drake goalkeeper Kelsi Stone kept the Bulldog’s lead alive—until the 70th minute, when the Ramblers would even the score with a goal from inside the box.
Stone would put together a pair of saves, but in the 76th minute, the Ramblers scored again, giving them a 3-2 lead. As the final seconds of the game ticked off the clock, Bruce would attempt one last header to keep the season alive—but to no avail. The game would end, and the scoreboard—Loyola 3, Drake 2.
Despite the finish to Sunday night’s game putting the Bulldogs on the losing end and therefore foregoing their season, the season looks to set the women’s team up for success next season and beyond. The team will be returning many of their starting lineup next season.
Led by a small, but fierce group of seniors this season, Drake battled adversity all season long. The first half of their season was a testament to their collective will—up and down, with rare consecutive wins and moments of sheer heartbreak as they started the season 3-7 before turning the season around.
PHOTO OF DRAKE WOMEN’S SOCCER TEAM IN ACTION | PHOTO COURTESY OF DRAEK ATHLETICS