Last season, the Drexel University men’s lacrosse team started off with a loss to the University of Virginia Cavaliers.
They then went on to win the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament. They made it to the NCAA Tournament and they won their first NCAA Tournament game.
A little under a year after last season’s opening loss, the Dragons started their journey towards a repeat on a snow-powdered field in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The Dragons ran out onto that snowy field filled to the brim with excitement and hope about a new season, filled with possibility.
In the first quarter that was apparent, as they seemed extraordinarily inspired by last season’s run of success.
In the first ten minutes of the contest, the Dragons pulled out to a 3-0 lead, following unassisted goals by Jules Raucci, Ryan Belka and Mason Pynn.
At around the four-minute mark of the first quarter, that momentum slowed.
A Tyler German goal for UVA with 3:47 remaining cut the lead to two. Virginia’s Greg Coholan followed up less than a minute later with a goal of his own, and the Dragons were only up by one.
The Dragons and Cavaliers would split goals to end the quarter, and the Dragons headed into the second quarter maintaining a one-goal advantage.
The second quarter would spell disaster for the Dragons. Virginia came out and scored two quick goals courtesy of German and Ryan Tucker and the Dragons’ slide began.
They weren’t able to get on the board in the second until the 5:19 mark, when Cole Shafer netted a goal on a man-up situation.
The second quarter gave the Cavaliers an 8-6 halftime advantage.
The second half didn’t give the Dragons any relief, as the Cavaliers came out with three straight goals to pull out to a five-goal lead, and Dragons wouldn’t be able to overcome the deficit.
Despite a late run with two goals in the fourth, the Dragons fell by a score of 14-10.
The top performers for the Dragons in the game were junior midfielder Raucci and senior midfielder Belka, who scored two goals each in the losing effort.
Also notable was Will Gabrielsen’s performance.
Not that he did anything particularly incredible stats-wise, but the fact that he was playing might be very important for the team going forward.
Last year, Gabrielsen and fellow junior Cal Winkelman competed on a game-to-game basis for playing time.
As the year went on, Gabrielsen stepped into the limelight as head coach Brian Voelker’s go-to goalie, especially in postseason play.
His start in the season opener could very well mean that the job is now his, or at least his to lose.
A major issue this season could be getting the team to mesh together and succeed offensively since they’re now missing graduated seniors Ben McIntosh, Jared Boudreau and Nick Trizano.
McIntosh, in particular, is a huge piece to replace. He scored 48 goals for the team in 18 games last year and has now taken his talents to the Edmonton Rush in the National Lacrosse League.
McIntosh was a huge piece to the Dragons’ dominant puzzle last year, and the Dragons will struggle to replace his offensive output and locker room leadership.
A possible emerging piece to that puzzle could be freshman midfielder Michael Kay. In his first college performance, Kay scored his first career goal in the first period and also had two assists. His accomplishments against UVA earned him CAA Rookie of the Week honors.
If he can be consistent contributor to the offense, the Dragons could be on a great track to repeat their success from last year.
Defensively, the Dragons will be without graduated Matt Dusek, and his loss could be problematic, since he was a captain last season on that end of the field and helped the Dragons bolster the defense as competition stiffened as the season went on.
Even with the loss of Dusek, the Dragons could benefit defensively from goalie consistency, so if Gabrielsen is a mainstay in goal, the Dragons could rally around that and tighten-up defensively.
With all of these potential questions and the lofty expectations for the team, only time will tell whether a repeat postseason is in the cards.
Moving forward, the Dragons, ranked No. 19 in the nation following the loss, face off against the University at Albany at Vidas Field Feb. 21 at 3 p.m.