As the days grow shorter, Thanksgiving lurks over the horizon, the basketball season starts with a bang and the frantic pace of the Drexel term eases, we get the perfect opportunity to meet one of Drexel soccer’s newest faces.
“My inaugural season here at Drexel was very enjoyable,” freshman goalkeeper Eve Badana said. “The work started from day one didn’t stop until the end of our last game. It was very demanding both physically and mentally, but I believe it was a great learning and building year for me.”
With three shutouts in conference play, 10 starts in 17 games played, 70 saves in 1,322.56 minutes and a 0.854 save percentage that topped the Colonial Athletic Association in the 2011 fall season, Badana’s freshman season at Drexel has been one to remember. Throw in a call up to the Irish National women’s side, a selection to the CAA all-rookie side and a place on the all-CAA second team, and one begins to wonder how the political science major from Markham, Ontario finds the time to achieve all this while balancing the academic demands of Drexel.
“This past year has been one crazy ride,” she said. “As mentioned, I definitely played at new levels, and I believe this greatly helped me in my preparation for the college game. Playing at the national level has always been a dream of mine, and to have the work pay off and actually get a taste of it was an absolute honor and privilege.
“The experience was one I like to think I learned from, both on the pitch and off. I learned a lot while with the Irish Squad, and I try my best to keep applying and improving them in training.”
Badana continued by talking about her academic responsibilities.
“On the academic side of things, it has been a demanding two months,” she said. “It is a struggle to balance all aspects of university life, but proper time management is key. Being a student-athlete means I cannot afford to fritter away time when I have it. I have learned to be efficient and organized in my schoolwork so there are no conflicts with soccer. However, being a student always comes first.
“This has been a skill I have developed over years of balancing school and soccer. All through high school I had soccer four to six times per week, so by the time I got to Drexel, I was prepared.”
And Badana needed to be prepared. Part of the smallest recruiting class that the women’s program has had in recent memory, Badana and fellow freshmen Melissa Chapman, Alyssa Findlay and Megan Hammaker joined a side that was returning nine starters from the 2010 side. That all four started the program’s final game of the season, a must-win on the road against rival Delaware, is a telling marker of the impact that the quartet made this year.
“My goal from the moment I signed with Drexel was to come in and be an impact player, whether that involved playing or not,” Badana said. “I really wanted to make a difference within the team so we could perform at our best. That being said, it was a great challenge coming into such a well-developed squad. I think that Melissa, Megan and Alyssa were all impact players, not only during games but also in training because they pushed everyone else to maintain or improve the level of play.”
Asked how the environment within the program helped her to adapt to the demands of Division I soccer, and in particular the unique environment that is Drexel, Badana responded confidently.
“Considering I have been with my club team for almost five years, it was definitely a different experience coming into Drexel this year,” she said. “What made the transition smooth for me was the welcoming atmosphere as the team. Even though I was ridiculously nervous, the rest of the team was accommodating from the beginning. I also think the small freshman class made it easier to get closer to each of them.
“Don’t get me wrong, the transition did come with small bumps of adjustment on and off the field, but I think that overall it was smooth thanks to the first-class teammates I have.”
The camaraderie within the group was evident throughout the season. Drexel’s impressive season, which included a record 15 CAA points, an unbeaten home record (5-0-3) and saw Jenna Lindsay become the program’s record scorer, was all built upon a rock-solid defense that only gave away 20 goals in 19 games. With Badana contributing 70 saves in 17 of those games, including penalty saves in crucial games against Virginia Commonwealth and Northeastern — Drexel drew both games 0-0 after double overtime — it is fair to say that she played her part.
“I think our defensive strengths can be traced back to the cohesiveness of the back line,” Badana said. “Coming in as a goalkeeper, it was reassuring to see the defense be that effective and efficient. That is not to say that there are not improvements that can and will be made in the future, but the foundation is strong.
“Looking to the future, I would love to see the team make history and make the CAA playoffs. I think this is an achievable goal, especially if we continue to improve and play at the rate we are.”
With the season having started off with Drexel being predicted to finish at the bottom of the CAA and ending with a double-overtime draw against Delaware that saw the Dragons just miss out on a playoff berth, there are a multitude of memories to take away from a frenetic start to life at Drexel. Badana, though, was able to pick one that held special significance for her.
“One memory that stands out from this past season was the win over James Madison in the first overtime,” she said. “I believe that game was one of the highlights of the season for the team. We knew the importance of the match going into it, as the last series of home games we had, the dedication and opening of the Laura Meikle Koch Locker Room, and of course, the vital points at stake.
“Battling for 97-plus minutes and having Megan Hammaker seal the deal with a brilliant goal was the epitome of teamwork and determination. The training we had leading up to the match was well represented in our play that day. I think that it was a great example of how our hard work got results this season. I look forward to many more experiences like that with Drexel.”
After such an impressive start to her Drexel career, the bar has been set high for Drexel’s resident Irish international goaltender. If her impact over the last few months is anything to go by, the Vidas Athletic Complex is due for many more memorable performances from Badana.