The weekend got off to as poor of a start as possible, as 100 seconds into action, the Dragons found themselves in an early hole. Kaeli Vandersluis connected across the field with Jessie Ayers to give Colorado the early 1-0 lead. The goal set the tone early for the Tigers, who controlled the ball much of the game; Colorado outshot Drexel 15-7 in the contest.
The Tigers would secure the game in the second half, receiving a goal from Sarah Schweiss on a free kick and another goal from Carina Lauzon. While Colorado scored two goals, Drexel only managed to fire off two shots the entire half.
“We made a couple of mistakes, and they were able to capitalize on them,” head coach Ray Goon said.
Goalkeeper Eve Badana, who was made busy by Colorado’s offensive attack, made a season-high six saves in the game. Badana said the result was not the one they wanted, but it was encouraged by a few things and pointed to things on which the team can improve.
“That match against Colorado College exposed some areas of our game, as a team, that need to be improved,” Badana explained. “I am happy to have learned from it.”
It appeared that the Dragons learned and adjusted something on the day off, playing one of their cleaner games of the season, at least defensively, the following day in a 1-0 win over Air Force. Redshirt freshman Colleen McDonald provided all the offense necessary with her first career goal.
It was the third consecutive pair of games in which Drexel shut out a team in one game and was shut out in the other. Badana recorded her third shutout in the last six games, and 16th in her two-plus year career.
Badana and the team’s play confirmed that the Dragons did in fact learn from the areas Colorado exposed. She said the game was full of solid play from her team and cited hard work defensively as the key to victory.
Goon was impressed with how his team handled and responded to a challenge. The Dragons were playing their second game in 43 hours, while Air Force had been off all weekend. Good thing the Dragons were prepared.
“I said prior to the trip [that] this would be a great opportunity for our team to deal with challenges in preparation for conference play,” Goon said. “I believe that overall we responded well.”
The trip also served as a great opportunity for the team to bond. There were many off-field activities, including sightseeing when not playing, that the team used to grow closer.
“Just like in previous years, the chance to get away and compete with teams in a different area of the country allows our squad to form even stronger bonds due to the adversity,” Badana said.
On Sept. 26, Drexel returned home, and was once again on the other end of the shutout, this time at the hands of La Salle University, 4-0. The talented Explorers, who now boast a record of 8-2, scored early and carried a 1-0 lead into halftime, Kerri Aiken’s goal being the difference.
They would not let Drexel back in the game, shutting the Dragons down, while adding three goals from three different scorers to create the wide margin.
Those experiences may help the Dragons as they enter the most crucial portion of the season. As Goon said, Drexel will now prepare for conference play in the second half of the season. The Dragons begin Colonial Athletic Association games, starting with Towson University, Sept. 29.
Both Goon and players such as Badana seem rather comfortable and pleased with where the team currently stands.
“At the moment, I would say we are where we need to be,” Badana said. “We have had several tough games already this season, some we caught a break, and others we were unlucky as the result wasn’t in our favor.”
Goon pointed to a more challenging schedule than previous years to explain the alternating results through 10 games. For this year, Drexel added three NCAA Tournament teams to the schedule in Rutgers University, Colorado College and La Salle University, as well as Marist College, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference runner-up.
“I think that the quality of these opponents might give the perception that our team hasn’t played consistently, but overall we have played well,” he said. “These games help us focus on the importance of the little things necessary to do well in conference play.”
Badana said she agreed. She views the schedule as a great challenge and has been pleased with the results when facing these tough opponents.
“I think our tough schedule provides a great challenge, and I am happy with our response so far,” she said. “We do, of course, still have things we need to work on, but I remain optimistic and excited about our upcoming conference play.”
Having the entire field of play in front of her, Badana is able to see everything as the goalie, and she is very encouraged by what she sees.
“I am proud of the work rate that the 10 girls in front of me are putting in,” she said. “At any given time during a match, I am confident in the determination and fight of my teammates, and it really is contagious.”
Confidence and determination are two qualities that any team would like to take into the most important stretch of the season. Time will tell whether their confidence will be rewarded against tough opponents, but the team is going into CAA play headfirst.
“This team expects to play well, and they’re not looking for any excuses not to play well,” Goon said.