After a tough-fought battle, Drexel fell to the University of Virginia Cavaliers 9-8 in their season opener Feb. 18 at Vidas Field.
The Dragons managed to hold an 8-7 lead until the fourth quarter, when they allowed two goals with less than eight minutes remaining in the game, falling to the No. 1 team in the country. It marked the fifth consecutive year the Dragons dropped the season opener to UVA.
On paper, Drexel played better than the Cavaliers, outshooting them 41-24. Unfortunately those stats didn’t translate into goals, causing the Dragons to come up short where it counted most.
“We had some opportunities, and we didn’t capitalize,” head coach Brian Voelker said.
Virginia was the first to score when Chris Bocklet beat Drexel goalkeeper Mark Manos. It almost became a 2-0 hole for Drexel after the ball was mishandled by Manos near the net, but he was able to recover for the save.
The first quarter would end in a tie after Brendan Glynn, who had 23 goals in 2011, knotted it with his first goal of this season. It was the first of three unanswered goals from the home team, as they advanced late in the second quarter with a 4-2 advantage.
After a timeout late in the second, Virginia would settle down and then follow with a run of three goals of its own, with the last one giving them a 5-4 lead. Rob Emery started the run by scoring his first of two goals on the afternoon immediately following the timeout.
The third quarter was filled with prominent shooting. After seven goals in a short period of time, the score was tied for the sixth time in the contest. Owen Van Arsdale of Virginia scored two goals of his own less than two minutes apart from each other.
Shortly after that, the momentum changed briefly in the Dragons’ favor when the Cavaliers’ Chris Clements was called for crosschecking. Having the extra man, Drexel took advantage of that opportunity to get within one goal.
The third quarter’s final goal came from Glynn with three seconds remaining after Andrew Collins created a turnover and then made a nice pass from the side of the net to find Glynn in the waning moments. It was Glynn’s second of the game.
Rolling with the momentum, Drexel was able to retake the lead — the Dragons’ secondof the game — less than five minutes into the final quarter. Scoring his second goal of the game, Nick Trizano completed another string of three straight Dragon goals. The 8-7 lead would be the final for Drexel, as they would not score again.
Trizano would leave the game shortly after that after pulling a hamstring, which likely contributed to the deflated offensive attack.
“You know, it hurt at the end of the game,” Voelker said. “Trizano scored the big goal to [take the lead] then pulled his hamstring and was out for the rest of the game, and it really took the wind out of our sails on the offensive end.”
Virginia proceeded to score back-to-back goals, taking the lead at 9-8 and holding it for the rest of the game.
“Throughout the entire game, I knew we had a good chance of winning,” Trizano said. “And having a lead in the fourth quarter does give you some confidence, but anytime you play a team as good as Virginia, a one-goal lead is never enough.”
A big part of the defensive effort was the game played by Dana Wilber. Going up against 2011 Tewaaraton Award Winner Steele Stanwick, Wilber limited him to two shots and held him without a point in the contest. Wilber was named the Colonial Athletic Association player of the week for his impressive performance.
Defense is something Voelker wants to continue to improve on throughout the season.
“I thought the defense played well. I thought Mark played well, and I thought all over we played pretty well,” Voelker said. “It’s just a real tough, athletic defending champions team. We hung in there with them, ended up going punch for punch, and they ended up winning and we didn’t.”
Voelker looks to learn from the experience and move forward with a successful season.
“I’m telling them to keep their heads up. This is obviously a very good team, and I think we left it out on the field,” Voelker continued. “I’m proud of the way our guys played. I’m bummed out, and it hurts to lose, but I’m proud of the way our guys played.”
The team is encouraged going forward as they get ready to face Albany on the road this week.
“Keeping with [Virginia] for the entire game just proved to us that we are a good team and that we should have a good season,” Trizano said.
The Great Danes, who lost 12-7 to Syracuse in their opener, will host the Dragons at 1 p.m. Feb. 25.
“We’ve got a tough game going up to Albany next weekend,” Voelker declared. “We need to get on the bus and go up there and get our first win.”