The Drexel men’s lacrosse team is a team of many teams, if that makes any sense. The Dragons could be classified as an exciting team, a high-octane team, a comeback team and a second-half team. But most importantly, they are a 3-1 team.
“The good news is we’re 3-1 and working on a high right now,” head coach Brian Voelker said. “We’re excited, and we’re glad we came out of there with a win.”
After a 13-12 victory over Robert Morris University March 2 in Pittsburgh, Drexel stands at two games above .500, a mark the team never reached last season. Senior Robert Church led the way with his first breakout game of the season. The attack had five goals and two assists. Church’s seven total points against the Colonials matched his output of three goals and four assists in the first three games.
Unlike in the first three games, the Dragons did not find themselves in a large deficit early against RMU. The Colonials did get on the board first with a goal 1:30 into the game by freshman midfielder Eric Rankel, which prompted the worry of another slow start. But Church responded with his first goal of the game. The two teams then alternated goals, as the first quarter ended with RMU ahead of the Dragons 4-3.
Scoring became scarce in the second quarter, as the only Drexel goal came from junior attack Nick Trizano, his ninth goal of the season. The Colonials scored two goals of their own to grab a 6-4 lead with 7:59 to go in the half, and they carried that same lead into the locker room.
Just as they have done all season, the Dragons came out with a vengeance in the second half. Church started things off with two quick goals that tied the game 6-6 with 12:22 remaining in the quarter. After an RMU response just 17 seconds later, Church scored his third goal in the opening 3:23 of the half.
Junior midfielder Ben McIntosh then added his only goal of the game, assisted by Church, on a man-up situation to put Drexel ahead 8-7. The Dragons were a perfect 3-3 on man-up situations in the game. Along with McIntosh’s goal, sophomore midfielder Ryan Belka and sophomore attack Andrew Vivian each scored in the first quarter on the power play.
Vivian tallied two goals, marking the first time he has scored since a pair of tallies in the season opener Feb. 16 against the University of Virginia, and one assist for the game. Belka finished with three goals and one assist, which, coupled with his five-point performance Feb. 26 against Villanova University, earned him co-CAA Player of the Week honors.
The Colonials then bombarded Drexel with five of the next seven goals to take a 12-10 lead with only 8:25 remaining in the game. Following a 10-10 tie, RMU junior midfielder Mitch Wilde scored two consecutive unassisted goals to put his team ahead. Things looked grim for the visiting Dragons.
Then, as has been the case in Drexel’s first two wins, the team got down to brass tacks. The Dragons responded with three consecutive scores to bring home the win, including Belka’s hat-trick goal, Church’s fifth goal and freshman attack Frank Fusco’s game-winning goal with 1:55 remaining on the clock.
“Coming into the year, we knew we were [going to] be more experienced on the offensive end,” Voelker said. “We’ve definitely leaned on the offense so far, and we’ve seen some good play from our defense at times.”
Although freshman goalie Will Gabrielsen saved only eight of the Colonials’ 20 shots on goal, he came up clutch again when he stoned an RMU shot on the doorstep with one minute remaining. The save secured the one-goal victory for Drexel and earned Gabrielsen his third consecutive win in net.
The Dragons very handily won the intangible stats in the game, earning a 42-28 edge in ground balls and a 51-28 advantage in shots attempted. In addition, sophomore faceoff specialist Nick Saputo won 21 of the 29 draws, which allowed Drexel to earn more opportunities in the offensive zone throughout the day.
Riding a three-game winning streak and boasting a No. 14 ranking in both the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association Coaches and Nike/Inside Lacrosse polls, the Dragons take on Bryant University March 9. The Bulldogs are 0-4, but Voelker expects nothing less than a hard-fought effort for a 1 p.m. start at Vidas Field.
“Their record isn’t good, but they’re a good team,” Voelker said. “They play hard, so we’re expecting a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-battle type of game.”
Last season, Drexel jumped out to a 5-0 lead against the Bulldogs by halftime but lost by a final score of 7-6. It was a stunning loss for the Dragons, and the fallout from it was a three-game losing streak. This time around, the team will look to continue the season’s momentum against Bryant rather than stunting it.