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W. lacrosse stumbles to CAA Tournament berth | The Triangle

W. lacrosse stumbles to CAA Tournament berth

Attack Jessica Rudloff is riding an 11-game point streak as the Drexel women's lacrosse team heads into its CAA Tournament semifinal matchup against Towson May 3. With a win, the Dragons would advance to the championship game for the first time in school history.
Attack Jessica Rudloff is riding an 11-game point streak as the Drexel women’s lacrosse team heads into its CAA Tournament semifinal matchup against Towson May 3. With a win, the Dragons would advance to the championship game for the first time in school history.

The Drexel University women’s lacrosse team (11-6, 4-3 Colonial Athletic Association) will enter the CAA Tournament on a two-game skid. They have also been outscored 15-5 combined in the first half of both games against Towson University (8-8, 6-1 CAA) and Hofstra University (10-7, 4-3 CAA).

The team’s first-half woes have been an issue the whole season.

“We take a little bit of time to fully turn on our game. All season we have been a second-half team and are now emphasizing putting together a full 60 minutes of Drexel lacrosse,” head coach Anna Marie Vesco said. “If we come out to play the first half as we have been playing the second halves, we will not be getting outscored.”

The stats back up Vesco’s sentiments, especially in their most recent game against Hofstra. Drexel was outscored in the first half 8-3 but outscored Hofstra 7-4 in the second half. The 12-10 loss bumped the Dragons to the fourth seed in the CAA Tournament.

In the first half, senior midfielder Kristin Kopenhaver scored two goals against the Pride, and junior midfielder Amanda Norcini scored one. Senior attacker Alyse Maiden opened the scoring in the second half for the Dragons. Maiden incited a comeback effort by scoring one more goal in the half, followed by Norcini scoring two and Kopenhaver scoring one. Kopenhaver’s goal came with just 48 seconds remaining in the game and was the last goal of the game. The Dragons ran out of time; there were nearly 13 minutes in the second half in which the Dragons didn’t score before Kopenhaver’s goal, sealing the loss.

Coming up short against Hofstra wasn’t the end of the world for Vesco and her team, but it’s never easy failing to complete a comeback.

“It’s never easy to lose a close conference game, but I was proud of the girls for playing until the last whistle,” Vesco said. “We know that if we came to play in the first half, it wouldn’t have been as close and would have ended in our favor.”

Kopenhaver and Norcini both had hat tricks in the game, and Kopenhaver has been particularly on a roll recently, scoring five goals in the last two games. Taking the pressure off leading scorers Maiden and senior midfielder Kelli Joran will be important going into the postseason.

“It is extremely important to have secondary scoring in the CAAs,” Vesco said. “When you are a top scorer for our team, like [Joran] and [Maiden], other teams will be looking to shut you down on attack. They will match their best defenders with you and even go as far as denying you the ball altogether. To have [Kopenhaver] and other secondary scorers step up in CAA play really decides our game offensively. Two players can’t do everything, and we have an attack full of scoring threats who I am excited to see step up this weekend.”

The Dragons will face Towson in the first round of the CAA Tournament May 3 in Towson, Md. The Tigers are the top-seeded team in the tournament, and they beat the Dragons just 11 days ago. Playing Towson so recently gives the Dragons a chance to make adjustments and learn from the way they played them April 21.

“After our previous game against Towson, we have learned how to effectively move the ball and put the ball away on attack by working together,” Vesco said. “Defensively, we have tweaked a few things and added a bit more high pressure. All in all, we do not need to change our game plan but just execute it better this time around.”

If Drexel can pull off the upset, the Dragons will face either Hofstra or James Madison University in the finals May 5. The Dragons have lost to both teams this year, but Vesco said that Drexel’s team has grown since the last time they played both rival teams in the tournament.

“We are a better and smarter team than when we first faced these opponents and are excited to see Towson on Friday and JMU or Hofstra on Sunday,” Vesco said.