Update: The women’s soccer team lost their first conference game of the season Sept. 29 @ Hofstra in Hempstead, N.Y. by a score of 1-2.
In Dante’s classic poem Divine Comedy, the following words greet him upon his decent into the bowels of hell: “Laciate ogne speranza, voi chíntrante;” or as it is more commonly stated, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”
Were it not for the monsoon-like night Sept. 23, this would have been apt advice for the visiting Georgia State side as they faced off against head coach Ray Goon’s Dragons in the first conference outing for both teams.
Heavy rain during the day and throughout the majority of the warm up led to concerns that the match might be postponed. Thankfully for those that braved the elements, the tireless work of the grounds crew meant that the field was still playable come kickoff.
Drexel started the more confident of the two teams on the puddle-filled field. The first few chances fell to Drexel as the visiting Panthers struggled to get a foothold in the early exchanges.
The home side was given a scare as a break by Georgia State nearly resulted in a goal against the run of play. The soaked home crowd was relieved as a shot by Panthers striker Jewel Evans came back off the upright with Dragons goalkeeper Victoria Troccoli left stranded.
The Dragons took their warning and cranked the pressure, resulting in the first goal of the game.
The air bound ball sent Jess Lowinger down the left side. Evading the attentions of a Panther’s defender, Lowinger squared a pass to the waiting Sam Greenfield at the edge of the 18-yard box. With poise that bellied the difficult playing conditions, Greenfield stroked her effort into the top right corner, leaving Panthers goalkeeper Kellianne Collins on an island.
It would remain 1-0 until the final whistle. The Dragons earned a winning start and a positive to carry into the next game against UNC Wilmington Sep. 25.
After the weekend’s home double-header, Goon spoke about his team’s performance in the torrential downpour.
“While the team is pleased with their performance last weekend, they are well aware that there are plenty of games remaining,” he said. “We’ve emphasized that, while we are deserving to be in this position, we must continue these efforts in order to take advantage of the work we’ve put in thus far.”
Drexel’s focus was evident again in the following match as UNC Wilmington was comfortably dispatched.
Freshman midfielder Alyssa Findlay recovered the ball with an early midfield tackle, and quickly fired a pass out to junior forward Andi Stampone. Having seen Jenna Lindsay making a run from midfield, Stampone volleyed a first time pass into the path of the advancing forward. Taking the ball in stride, Lindsay bore down on the goal, hammering the resultant shot past the keeper to make it one goal to the Dragons.
The lead would not last long though as soon after UNCW responded with a goal of its own.
Sloppy passing from the Dragons saw UNCW gifted possession deep in Drexel’s half and advance one goal. A short pass from Nicole Costa found Stephanie Costa with time to turn in the box and she duly scored past freshman goalkeeper Eve Badana.
Shocked into a response, Drexel returned to the dominant play that had been a staple of the early part of the first half, scoring another goal.
Swift interplay down the right wing between Jess Sarkisian, Findlay and Christine Stevenson resulted in the ball finding its way to freshman forward Megan Hammaker inside the box. A drop of the shoulders and quick feet saw her evade her marker before she was scythed down unceremoniously for a penalty to the home side.
Hammaker dusted herself off to take the penalty and scored on the second attempt after the goalkeeper saved her first effort. She made no mistake with the rebound, smashing it past the prone goalkeeper and giving the Dragons the lead going into half time.
The Dragons resumed the second half with the same composure and pace that they did the first. Ahead by one, Goon’s side was looking to maintain control of the ball and get that crucial third goal that would put the match beyond UNCW’s reach.
Drexel’s third goal eventually came and Findlay was involved yet again. Working a short corner with Jess Lowinger, Findlay crossed an inviting ball into the box that found Stampone unmarked at the edge of the 6-yard line; her header flew past UNCW’s goalkeeper Caitlin Hunter making it a two-goal lead for the Dragons.
The score 3-1, Drexel closed up shop and saw out the game to give them their first ever 2-0 conference start. Drexel’s positive start also culminated in Colonial Athletic Association rookie of the week honors for Findlay.
Drexel’s next match sees them away to Hofstra (5-3, 1-1 CAA) Sept. 29 before another appearance at home in the afternoon Oct. 2 against Northeastern University (6-4, 2-0 CAA).
With matters heating up in the conference, Drexel will want to put their road woes behind them as they face a formidable Hofstra team.
“Playing on the road is a challenge for all teams, but with the way the team played this past weekend, we’re not looking to change too much,” Goon said. “We’ve been tweaking things during training this week and all players are working hard to stay sharp, because they know how much of a battle each CAA match can be. ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ might be the appropriate phrase, but the team is ready if adjustments need to be made.”
With Drexel (4-4-2, 2-0 CAA) enjoying its best start to a season in a while, one hopes success will continue for the Dragons.