That being said, the road to the CAA playoffs was rough, and the road through the playoffs will not be easy, either. In order to qualify, the Dragons found that they had to win their last two games of the season, which were both within the conference. And even now, they are in possession of the fourth and final seed in the CAA’s, leading them to face top-seeded Towson University.
“We are so excited to be making the CAA Championship once again,” head coach Anna Marie Vesco said. “This is what our team works so hard for all year in practice. We’ve made our goal in reaching the CAAs, and it’s our intention to take it to the next level and beat Towson, the No. 1 seed, to the finals.”
Drexel will face Towson in Towson, Md. April 27 at noon in the first game of the Championships. But how did the Dragons get to this point?
First, the Dragons, reeling from a tough one-goal loss to Towson, faced off against The College of William & Mary April 20 at Vidas Field. Despite their record (4-13, 2-5 CAA), the Tribe came in with the will to compete and gave the Dragons (11-5, 4-3 CAA) all they could handle in what would turn out to be an overtime thriller.
The Tribe jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead to start the contest, but the Dragons responded with three goals of their own from Charlotte Wood, Amanda Norcini and Jaclyn Klunder, putting them up 3-2 for the moment.
Each team would score two more goals, trading back and forth for the remaining time in the first half.
To start the second half, William & Mary took control of the game, scoring five of the next six goals and giving themselves a 10-6 lead over the Dragons, but the Tribe would not score another goal in the remaining time of the contest.
With under five minutes remaining In regulation, it became the Drexel offensive show, as the Dragons scored four straight, ending in Drexel Co-Athlete of the Week Kelli Joran’s unassisted score with just 27 seconds remaining to force overtime.
Overtime was a defensive battle, as neither team could manage to score for almost the entire period. With 11 seconds remaining in the contest, Joran had another chance and didn’t miss, as she put another unassisted shot in the back of the net, her third of the game, to seal the 11-10 win.
Coming off the emotional victory over the Tribe, the Dragons were riding high with confidence. Drexel then proceeded to polish off Old Dominion University (4-13, 1-6 CAA) 10-4 in its final game of the regular season, effectively earning a spot in the CAA playoffs.
The Dragons started off strong, scoring the first four goals of the game, and never let off the gas pedal as they went on countless scoring runs during their trouncing of the Monarchs. The key performers for Drexel were Lindsay Kovar (three goals), Alyse Maiden (two goals and one assist), Wood (two goals), Klunder (one goal and one assist), Kelly Palace (one goal) and Joran (one goal and one assist).
“Both games were big wins for our team,” Norcini said. “Winning against William & Mary clinched our playoff spot, and ODU was revenge from them beating us last year. It was a successful weekend and a confidence builder for our team.”
It seems as if every week, another player steps up to compete alongside team leaders Wood and Maiden. Last week it was Norcini, and this week it was Joran.
“We all have each other’s back,” Norcini said. “We know in a game that we have 28 players who can play at a high level and contribute to our team’s success.”
The Dragons now prepare for a tough matchup in Towson, a team they have a personal vendetta against after their tough April 15 loss to them.
Drexel led the Tigers by as much as four goals at two separate times in the game — 7-3 at the beginning of the second half and 9-5 at the midway point of the second — but Towson battled back to beat the Dragons with 29 seconds left, scoring the game-winning goal for the 11-10 victory. The loss left a sour taste in Drexel’s mouth, and the team is looking for redemption.
“It means a lot. We wanted another shot at Towson, and this is our chance,” Norcini said. “It will be a hard-fought game with Towson, but we showed playing them the first time that we can play with them any day.”
Vesco has the utmost confidence in her team and all but guaranteed a win over the top-ranked, unbeaten Tigers in their first-round matchup.
“After [our game with Towson], if you ask what our intention is, then of course my answer would be to win it all,” she said.