Defense seems to be the key to winning in almost any team sport. The cliche “Defense wins championships” is commonly used to make this point. Despite its overuse, the phrase does have merit.
Drexel women’s lacrosse head coach Anna Marie Vesco hopes her team plays well defensively in the last two games of the regular season, which she considers must-win games if the team is to qualify for a second consecutive Colonial Athletic Association playoff appearance.
After splitting their last two games against CAA opponents, the Dragons (9-5, 2-3 CAA) are now preparing for their final two games of the season. These two games seem to be easy contests for Drexel, as both the College of William & Mary (3-12, 1-4 CAA) and Old Dominion University (4-11, 1-4 CAA) combine for a total of seven overall wins — two less than the Dragons have on their own.
But before they began to prepare for the upcoming contests, the Dragons had two CAA games last week.
Vesco and company traveled down Interstate 95 to Newark, Del., where they faced the University of Delaware April 13. The Blue Hens (4-11, 2-3 CAA) had four overall wins, and the Dragons made quick work of them, handing Delaware its 11th loss of the season. The 9-4 victory gave the Dragons their second conference win, and they now hold the tiebreaker against the Blue Hens in the conference standings.
“Against Delaware, the attack had strong possessions, which ended in goals,” Vesco said. “Our defensive unit played an excellent game and fully executed our game plan. The only other team that held Delaware to only four goals was the University of Maryland.”
By the end of the first half, the Dragons had an uncomfortable 5-4 lead. Thankfully, Drexel blew the game wide open in the second half, scoring four more goals and freezing the Blue Hens’ offense, ultimately taking the 9-4 win.
The Dragons had four different players score two goals: juniors Alyse Maiden and Kelli Joran; senior Jaclyn Klunder; and sophomore Amanda Norcini, who was named Drexel co-Athlete of the Week along with the men’s crew second varsity eight boat.
Drexel returned home to Vidas Field April 15 for their next matchup against the first-place Towson University Tigers (11-3, 5-0 CAA). The Dragons played their hearts out, dominating the Tigers in the first half of play. Heading into the break, the Dragons led Towson 7-3 and had their sights set on taking down one of the two undefeated CAA teams in the conference after having lost to unbeaten James Madison University (9-5, 5-0 CAA) last week.
Unfortunately, the second half was not so kind to the Dragons. Drexel collapsed on the defensive end of the ball and sputtered offensively as well, allowing eight goals while only managing to score three.
The final score of the game was 11-10 in favor of Towson. The Dragons played strongly and had three players with two or more points. Maiden had two assists and a goal, Norcini cemented her status as co-Athlete of the Week with three more goals, star senior Charlotte Wood added two goals of her own, and Klunder scored two goals and added an assist. Maiden and Wood lead the Dragons in goals (30 each) and points (46 for Maiden and 40 for Wood), while Maiden leads the team with 16 assists, and Wood is third with 10. Klunder is second on the team with 11 assists.
“Towson is tied for first place in the conference,” Vesco said. “They are a strong team. Our shooting percentage dropped in the second half. We hit a post shot, and Towson’s goalie came up with a huge save against one of our free position shots. On the other end, the defense had a lapse of about five minutes where Towson scored three goals on variations of one play.”
Despite the late collapse, the Dragons did show that they can compete with one of the best teams. Even though the two teams remaining on Drexel’s schedule seem like powder puffs compared to the Tigers, Vesco says the Dragons need to stay focused.
“We need to play as hard as we did in the Towson game and not have a defensive lapse [to win the next two games],” she said.
If the Dragons qualify for the playoffs after their matchups with William & Mary and Old Dominion April 20 and 22, they will likely get the chance to avenge one of their regular season losses against either JMU or Towson.