The Drexel University men’s soccer team traveled to Charlottesville, Va., for a match against the University of Virginia Sept. 18 at the Cavaliers’ Klockner Stadium. The University of Virginia soccer program is one of the most storied programs in all of college soccer, having won six national championships in its history, most recently in 2009. However, Drexel head coach Doug Hess was not fazed by his opponent. Instead, he showed confidence in his own players, saying, “We have a good team, and if we play our game we can pull off the upset.” Both sides entered the game on hot streaks, with the Dragons (3-2-1) winners of three straight and the Cavaliers (4-2-1) unbeaten over their last three matches. Ultimately, one of the streaks had to end, and it was Drexel on the short end of the contest, falling to Virginia 2-0.
The Dragons’ offense consistently found the back of the net in its first five games of the season but could not do so against Virginia, due in large part to strong play from Virginia goalkeeper Spencer LaCivita. The Virginia goalie repeatedly neutralized heavy pressure from Drexel, saving all six shots on goal, which resulted in the Dragons’ first shutout loss of the season. Drexel had plenty of opportunities on offense, including 11 corner kicks compared to one for UVA and also a total shot advantage of 13-8 over UVA, but the Dragons could not take full advantage of the situation. While the Cavaliers took less shots, they proved to be more efficient with their chances, netting two of their eight shots for goals. Senior Drexel goalkeeper Tim Washam made two saves on Virginia’s four shots on goal. After the game, Hess stressed the importance of capitalizing on offense:
“We had as much, if not more, control of possession as Virginia, but we could not execute on offense. I felt we played well enough as a group but didn’t do enough with all of our opportunities. We didn’t allow them many opportunities, but they took advantage.”
Drexel controlled much of the action early on, taking four corners within the first 24 minutes. Junior midfielder Ken Tribbett contributed to the Dragons’ early attack with a header on goal off a corner kick; however, the Cavs’ LaCivita was well positioned to make the save. Soon thereafter, the Cavaliers got on the board in the 30th minute when Scott Thomsen sent a cross to Todd Wharton on the edge of the box who then one-timed the ball into the left side of the net. The score remained 1-0 until the 77thminute, when Virginia took a 2-0 lead off Will Bates’ team-leading fifth goal, assisted by Brian James. Senior midfielder Brandon Zeller and junior midfielder Nathan Page paced the Dragons’ offense with four and three shots, respectively.
The men’s soccer team will return home to Vidas Field to open all-important Colonial Athletic Association play against the Old Dominion University Monarchs (6-0-0) Sept. 22 at 4 p.m. The Dragons will need to regroup quickly from their game at Virginia in order to prepare for this exceptionally tough opponent.
“We need to get over the loss to Virginia and come home to face Old Dominion, who, in many ways, is better than Virginia,” Hess said. “We have to work it out defensively and then get at it offensively against them.”
Old Dominion poses what is likely Drexel’s toughest matchup of the season. The undefeated Monarchs are off to a strong start this year with a recent win over then-No. 2-ranked Creighton University Sept. 14. Old Dominion is currently ranked No. 11 nationally by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Coaches Poll.