The Drexel University field hockey team had an incredible season this year. As the season came to an end Nov. 6, the Dragons had a great stretch of games. The team won their last two games against Colonial Athletic Association opponents, which put them in the post-season, facing James Madison University in the CAA semifinals. A win in this matchup would have propelled the Dragons to advance in the postseason.
Drexel was unable to pull off the upset. James Madison was the first seed in the CAA standings, while Drexel was the fourth seed. The Dragons played the way they had all season, but just could not find a way to pull out the win.
The game was certainly intense on both sides, and as a result a plethora of fouls were called in the opening minutes. It seemed as though both teams were trying too hard to establish themselves. Drexel’s defense allowed one goal in the first half, while the offense could not get anything done. Though it could have been a result of the many fouls called in the first half, the Dragons simply could not set up a successful offensive set and could only muster one shot in the first half.
The second half was much of the same for the Dragons, with a score from James Madison just two minutes in. At this point, Drexel needed to make a push to score so that they could stay in the game and gain confidence.
The Dragons took two shots in the second half and missed both. Defensively, the effort was strong. The Dragons were scored on one last time at the 20 minutes mark, but that would be the last goal scored by James Madison. Although they did allow three goals, the defense played well. It would have taken a herculean effort by the defense to stop James Madison from scoring more than one goal.
In the end it was the Dragon’s inconsistent offense that lost the game for them and ended their 2015 season.
The Dragons’ season as a whole, however, was very impressive. It is hard to remember that Drexel started with a 2-6 record in their first eight games. In their final 10 games of the season, the Dragons were able to make the correct adjustments and won 6 of their 10 remaining games to go 8-10 overall.
Head coach Denise Zelenak was quick to note the improvement of her team, “This season has really re-energized me as a coach, to see how hard the team worked to improve at every practice regardless of our prior results, was just amazing. I am beyond impressed with how positive they stayed through all the challenges they faced this season. Their commitment to our overall plan, not the plan itself, is what ultimately got them the bid into the CAA Championship.”
The Dragons have a young core and have a great chance to improve on this season next year. Jenna Knouse, Lauren Hibshman, Jessica McCarthy, Megan Wiest and Katie Bagdon all earned All-CAA honors. Bagdon and Wiest were named to the All-Rookie team for their outstanding play in their first season. They will be called upon to be leaders next season and hopefully to give the Dragons a chance for a CAA Championship.
Jessica McCarthy is a junior and will be back next season as a senior. Her leadership will be most important in teaching and helping her younger teammates become better players.
Lauren Hibshman and Jenna Knouse join their fellow seniors Mary Lynam and Danielle Grassi as Dragons who will be moving on next season. Coach Zelenak talked about their presence on the team, “Honestly there are not enough words to describe the positive impact they have made to our program, its players and our coaches. They are family, all very special and will be greatly missed on and off the field. My greatest hope is that a little bit from each of them will be passed on to each player on our squad. That is the great part of team sports for me, the ability to make someone else better… they all did that.”
Perhaps parts of these seniors will have rubbed off on their younger teammates. If this is the case, then Drexel will be in the hunt for a CAA Championship next season. As it stand right now, the Dragons have a very good core coming back next year, and with their younger stars having an entire season under their belts, there is hope on how far this team can go next season.