After finishing the 2020 season 2-4-2, it’s safe to say that the Drake Women’s Soccer team was hoping for a strong start to the 2021 season.
This hope stood far from reality as the team finished 0-2-1 through the first three games of the season. The team’s primary struggles seemed to be on the offensive side of the ball as they failed to score a single goal through their opening stretch. Defensively, the team let up a single goal on average up to that point.
Things were looking bleak up to that point to say the least. Drake, however, showed an ability to face adversity and bounced back with a 2-1 win against Big 12 school Iowa State. This win not only showcased brilliance from Drake’s goalkeeper, fifth-year Kelsie Stone, who led the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) in saves at this point in the season, but it also gave head coach Lindesey Horner confidence in the team’s ability to bounce back from their rough start.
“From the beginning of the season we were overlooked. We weren’t satisfied with our spring season and knew we needed to make adjustments,” said senior midfielder Libby Helverson on the team’s bounce back in the fourth game of the season. “We have to continue to go into every game with the mindset of being the underdogs and use that to our advantage.”
The winning streak continued into the following weeks as Drake secured two more consecutive home wins against SIUE and Saint Thomas, both games ending 1-0.
These games shined a light on Drake’s increasing offensive ability, along with their consistently high performing defense. Drake’s defense held an average of 0.66 points against opponents through the first six games of the season.
This streak of defensive dominance took a hit in game seven, as Drake suffered a 1-4 loss to South Dakota, giving up three goals in the first half alone. This loss gave Drake yet another chance to show their resilience to adversity as they prepared to face off against an undefeated, No. 15 nationally ranked Memphis team on Sept. 12. Memphis had a goal differential of 19-2 through their first seven games of the season.
Despite this, Drake pulled off a massive 2-0 upset, shutting out No. 15 ranked Memphis. While defeating Memphis was no easy task for Drake, doing so has been instrumental in their preparation for MVC play later this fall.
A win this past Sunday was far from the expected outcome, but Drake took the golden opportunity to right the ship as MVC play looms closer with each game that passes. To add to the excitement, the Drake Women’s team lacked any real history with Memphis, causing preparation to be just that much more difficult.
“We prepare well for every team. The only difference this week is mentally preparing for a tough game and being ready to compete at our best,” Stone said when asked about the difference in preparing for a tough opponent like Memphis.
It’s fair to say that Drake was running out of time when it came to falling into a consistent rhythm with only three games left before MVC play before Sunday, but this win gives reason to believe in great things to come. While this team has had its fair number of rough moments up to this point in the season, the crucial defeat of Memphis gives newfound confidence in the team’s ability to compete at an elite level from this point on.