W. soccer wins twice on late goals | The Triangle

W. soccer wins twice on late goals

Credit: Ken Chaney | Sophomore midfielder Megan Hammaker tries to win possession of the ball against a University of Delaware defender in Drexel’s 1-0 victory Oct. 24. Hammaker scored the game-winning goal Oct. 21 against James Madison University with just seven seconds left.

The Drexel women’s soccer team has seemingly perfected the art of late-game winners, and as a result they’re spearheading the most successful season in the history of the program. For the first time in team history, the Dragons will both be appearing in the Colonial Athletic Association Championships and taking advantage of the first-round bye they earned by defeating the rival University of Delaware 1-0 Oct. 24 in their regular-season finale.

By stringing together three straight late-game victories to end the season, the Dragons finished with a 13-3-1 overall record, including a 7-2-1 conference record. The 13 wins are a school record. They also completed the season undefeated (6-0-1) at home with the season-sealing victory over Delaware.

Heading into the game, the team was coming off a victory Oct. 21 over James Madison University. The victory was like deja-vu for the team after their closely contested 1-0 win Oct. 14 against The College of William & Mary in which sophomore midfielder Megan Hammaker scored a late goal in the 71st minute. The Dragons saw the same play by Hammaker in the game against James Madison.

With under one minute remaining, Drexel and James Madison were deadlocked at 1-1 with extra time appearing imminent. But just seven seconds before the final whistle blew to signal the end of regulation, it was none other than Hammaker finding the upper-right corner to give the Dragons a 2-1 win, clinching the program’s first-ever playoff berth.

With the playoff spot in the bag, one might have expected the Dragons to ease up on the throttle, but the team had higher aspirations. The Delaware match held a special prize at the end of the tunnel: a first-round bye in the postseason, giving the team extra rest and an instant appearance in the semifinals.

It was immediately apparent that tensions and nerves were both high as the Dragons and Blue Hens kicked off the season closer. Both teams held play for periods of time during the match, the first half of which was dominated by sloppy passing and aggressive defense, leading to two very out-of-sync offenses.

Delaware had three or four good scoring chances in the opening five minutes before the pace settled down, ending in even chances from both teams in the first half.

In the second half, the offenses came alive with more creative plays and more succinct scoring chances in the box. Delaware had two prime chances in the 55th minute, including a point-blank shot from 12 feet out that Drexel sophomore goalkeeper Eve Badana crucially saved to keep the game knotted at 0-0.

As the match drew closer to the final whistle, the Dragons piled on the offense. In the 80th minute, Hammaker came within inches of scoring from roughly seven feet out to record her third straight game-winning goal, but her shot found Delaware goalkeeper Jessica Levy in perfect position.

With extra time in sight, Drexel continued to pour on the offense, and on a second consecutive corner kick, the effort finally came to fruition. Senior midfielder Courtney Wylie’s ball crossed into the box, sophomore midfielder Alyssa Findlay headed it down, and junior defender Sam Greenfield found it in perfect position to knock the goal home on the lower-right side of the goal. The goal was her fifth on the year and her fourth game-winner.

With the No. 2 seed (behind only William & Mary) wrapped up, the women will have off until Nov. 2, when they will face the winner of the game between the third-seeded University of North Carolina Wilmington and sixth-seeded Delaware. In the only match between Drexel and UNCW this season, the Seahawks got the better of the Dragons, as Drexel dropped the contest 2-0 in late September.

The CAA Championships will be held in Williamsburg, Va., hosted by top seed William & Mary.