After a regular season full of first-time accomplishments for the Drexel women’s lacrosse program, they experienced yet another first in their Colonial Athletic Association playoff berth.
Unfortunately, this particular first was the Dragons’ first ever CAA playoff loss — in their first playoff bierth in program history. Drexel (9-8, 3-5 CAA) faced off against the tournament host Towson (11-6, 7-1 CAA) in Towson, Md. May 5 at 5:30 p.m. The two teams entered the matchup pretty much even, despite the Dragons being the No. 4 seed and the Tigers being No. 1. Their even status comes from the fact that Towson’s lone CAA loss came at home against these same Dragons.
The game started off with both teams firing back and forth. Towson scored the first two goals as Kelly Custer scored her 20th of the season to open up the game. That was followed by Katie Leech, who recorded her fifth on the season.
Just about a minute into the game, the Dragons netted their first goal when Jaclyn Klunder scored her 14th of the season. Drexel’s next goal, which would tie the game up 2-2, was scored by their star attacker Charlotte Wood — her 45th of the season.
The game remained knotted up until the halfway point of the first half when Towson’s Jess Dunn scored her 37th of the season to put the Tigers ahead by one. Not to be outdone, Wood managed to slip another one by the Towson goalkeeper for her second of the game, knotting the game up at three.
Drexel would then take their first — and last — lead of the game when Klunder also scored her second of the game with just over 10 minutes left until the half, putting the Dragons on top 4-3.
Despite scoring the last two goals and seemingly building some momentum, the Dragons fell behind once again before the half ended. The Tigers scored the next, and last, two goals of the first when Custer scored her second of the game. Ashley Waldron followed her teammate with a goal of her own, her 24th of the season, to put Towson ahead 5-4 heading into the half.
After a relatively even first half, the Dragons came out of the break hot, scoring the first goal of the second half when Kelli Joran netted her 24th of the season.
About five minutes later, the Tigers matched the Dragons’ effort with a score of their own when Sarah Appelt put away her 17th of the season to put Towson ahead 6-5. But just like the rest of the game, Drexel came right back with one of their own, as Alyse Maiden score her 33rd of the season to tie the game up once more.
Although the Dragons had been able to roll with all of Towson’s punches thus far and come back with goals of their own, the Tigers finally went on a run, the likes of which had Drexel unable to recover.
Towson’s Dunn scored her second of the game with 20 minutes remaining in the game. Appelt, who also scored her second of the game, followed that. Alexa Demski of Towson joined the party by scoring first of the game — it was also her first of the season.
The score was now 9-6 in favor of the Tigers.
Drexel seemed down and out but did have a little juice left in the tank as they scored two more goals to the Tigers’ one, but there was just not enough time left on the clock as the No. 4 Dragons were eliminated in the CAA semi-final matchup by No. 1 Towson. The final score was 10-8 as the Tigers evened the season series at 1-1.
Drexel did outshoot the Tigers 22-21, but their effort was not enough.
Head coach Anna Marie Vesco talked about her team’s effort in the Towson game, and why they ultimately fell short in their first ever CAA Tournament game.
“We came out hard, but in the games since we beat them, they have excelled in the fast break,” she said. “We had a couple of turnovers and fouls [late in the game] that lead to fast break opportunities and goals for them,” Vesco said.
Although the Dragons fell in the first round of the tournament, it was the first taste the program had ever gotten at the CAAs — and Vesco said it’s something her team could get used to — qualifying for the CAA tournament, that is.
“Our goal was to make it to the tournament; we got a taste and we liked it,” Vesco said. “During the postgame [talk in the locker room] we said that we were going to host [the tournament] next year.”
In the CAA women’s lacrosse conference, the team that hosts the postseason tournament is the team that finishes first with the best record in the regular season.
“Even if we just get enough wins and qualify for the playoffs, we’ll take it, but if we finish first and host, that’s even better,” Vesco said.
Drexel will now head into the offseason with confidence that next year will end with an even better result.
They will return many of their top scorers, but one in particular will have a larger impact than most of the others.
Wood will be back for her final season as a Dragon and will look to take her team to even higher heights.