Senior Day for the Drexel University men’s soccer team ended as a microcosm of their season as a whole: offensively lacking and filled with missed opportunities.
Though the Dragons were already eliminated from postseason contention, they had the chance to end their season on a positive note and give the departing seniors and young guys something to look to going forward. This was especially important on the team’s Senior Day, with parents out to support the seniors and hoping to witness a victorious send-off.
Maybe it was fatigue, maybe a lack of focus, maybe they were just generally outplayed, but the team didn’t garner much positivity with their performance at home against the University of North Carolina at Wilmington Nov. 1.
As is the theme of this year’s edition of Dragons soccer, they started off the game looking confident and strong, and had a few offensive chances but were unable to finish any of them.
Then things quickly fell apart.
In the 25th minute, the Dragons allowed UNCW’s Jamie Dell to score off a cross from Colin Bonner to give the visiting team a 1-0 lead.
Throughout the year, the team as whole has been downright anemic offensively, but they’re never worse than when they give up an early goal.
They start forcing the issue, and all season that’s allowed the opposing team to take advantage of a spread out defense, and that would again be the case against UNCW.
Though the Dragons were able to hold the fort going into halftime, soon after the second half began, UNCW struck again.
The same duo for the Seahawks would do it again, as Bonner found Dell breaking away down the field, the latter would score the easy one-on-one goal.
With the 2-0 lead, the Dragons were basically done for. Again, they continued to have chances near the goal, shooting nine times in the game, but only a single shot even challenged UNCW goalkeeper Sam Williams, who recorded a clean sheet in the game.
With the game already basically decided, the final dagger in the Dragons’ nightmarish season came in the 74th minute, when Daniel Escobar crossed to an open Jack Ward, who found space at the far post to bring the score to 3-0.
And with that, the season was over. Nearly 20 minutes remained on the clock, but the outcome was decided and the minutes drained away without much fight from either side.
Head coach Doug Hess summarized his feelings on the disappointing season.
“It didn’t go well. It’s a season on underachieving. Zero postseason play, and we’ve set a standard now of postseason play. From that regard, [this season is an] underachievement. It was kind of two seasons, looking at the first half, we were 4-4-2 through 10 games and had only conceded seven goals. The second half was conference play and we gave up 18 goals in eight games, you can’t win that way. We didn’t take a single point in any of our last four games and we scored one goal total. It was a disappointing season to say the least because I think we were capable of more,” he said.
Now, this season was always supposed to be a tougher one than last year. The Dragons lost some big pieces from last season’s Colonial Athletic Association champion team, including midfielders Ken Tribbett and Nathan Page and defender Tal Biblil.
Those are players that made a huge impact on last season’s team, especially Tribbett and Page, who were the top two goal scorers on the team. In fact, out of the top four goal scorers on the team last year, only one, senior John Grosh, didn’t graduate.
That’s a huge loss for the team and it probably made the difference in the whole season. This year, the Dragons only had three players score multiple goals, and no one scored more than two in the entire season.
Looking forward, the team will quite possibly have similar problems next season, as they’re again losing their top two scorers, Grosh and Michele Pataia. Without those two, younger players are going to have to step up big time to return this program to the heights it has risen to in the past.
The good news, while it might cause problems in the present, is that this team is very young overall and under the tutelage of Coach Hess could easily be a contender on the biggest stage, the NCAA tournament, going forward.
Also, the last time the Dragons ended a season 5-10-3? The 2011 season.
In 2012, they made the NCAA tournament.