Coming off four straight victories, including one against the No. 15 University of New Hampshire, Drexel’s field hockey team was facing a daunting task ahead with two ranked opponents next on the schedule.
The Dragons’ first test of the week came against the No. 21 College of William & Mary. The Tribe raced out to a 3-0 lead in the first 27 minutes of the game thanks to two goals by Brittany Hopkins and a third by Taylor Hodge. The deficit didn’t discourage head coach Denise Zelenak’s young team, however.
The Dragons started their comeback thanks to two goals just one minute before halftime. The goals came from two of the youngest members of the team. Sophomore Meghan Plank scored the first for Drexel, and freshman Danielle Grassi scored the second with 22 seconds remaining in the half. Shortly after halftime, senior captain Amanda Fleischut evened the match, scoring off Drexel’s second penalty of the game. In the 56th minute, Fleischut scored the game-winning goal to complete the Dragons’ comeback.
While the offense was essential in the team’s comeback, strong defense also played a role. Sophomore Jantien Gunter made four saves to earn her fifth straight victory.
“Jantien is learning a lot, and she is very talented and really athletic. She has learned that she has to play 70 minutes of a game,” Fleischut said.
“We have a lot of talent on the field, and it shows. We are not intimidated by rankings. We believe we can win every time we step on the field,” Zelenak added.
The Dragons did just that against William & Mary.
Going for a sixth win in a row, however, would be more challenging on the road against 10th-ranked Old Dominion University. Kimberly Oakes and Maartje vanRijswijk of ODU scored within the first 10 minutes of the game to give ODU a two-goal lead.
At the 15-minute mark, junior Lindsay McArdle brought the Dragons within one thanks to her shot into the right side of the cage. However, Christy Longacre of ODU turned a rebounded ball into the net and restored the Monarchs’ two-goal advantage. At the half-hour mark, junior Elise DiDonato brought the Dragons back within one with an assist from Fleischut. Shortly before halftime, ODU scored once more to make the score 4-2.
Try as they might, the Dragons could not claw back from another hole in the second half.
While losing to ODU was tough, Zelenak has the Dragons focused on competing one game at a time in order to get to their goal of winning the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament and hopefully obtaining a berth in the NCAAs.
“I know we have the talent to win CAA, that’s our goal, at least CAAs. I’ve been telling the team that it goes by fast, so we have to work hard and listen to what Coach tells us and we can win any match,” Fleischut said.
They face a tough task against a ranked Big Ten team in The University of Iowa at State College, Pa., but judging from their previous form, Iowa will find it hard to contain a tough, eager and determined Dragons team.