Undefeated and in a tie for first — that’s how the Drexel women’s lacrosse team entered the weekend of April 15-17 as they prepared for matchups against Colonial Athletic Association rivals Old Dominion University and No. 17 William and Mary.
After the two games the Dragons (8-5, 2-2 CAA) dropped to .500 on the CAA season, falling from first to fifth place in the conference.
Drexel traveled to Norfolk, Va. April 15 to face off against the Monarchs (4-8, 3-1 CAA). The Dragons were the favored team entering the contest, having won eight of their first 11 games. ODU, entering the game with a win over George Mason, had won only two of their first 10 games, leaving the Monarchs the clear underdog against the then-first place Dragons.
Drexel jumped on board first with sophomore midfielder Kelli Joran putting one in the back of the net just 35 seconds into the game for her 17th goal of the season. The Monarchs would go on to score the next three, taking a 3-1 lead with just over 20 minutes remaining in the first half. After trading goals back and forth, ODU scored one more than the Dragons at the end of the half, and Drexel went into the locker room trailing the Monarchs 6-4.
In the second half, Old Dominion scored the first two goals, but the Dragons scored four more and the Monarchs managed just one more. Drexel outscored Old Dominion in the second half and outshot them for the game. However, they came up just short as the Monarchs took the matchup 9-8, dropping the Dragons to 2-1 in conference play.
“We were definitely expecting a different outcome [last weekend]; Old Dominion was a really rough day and we didn’t play totally to our potential, which is disappointing,” head coach Anna Marie Vesco said. “But our girls fought really hard the whole game to the very last seconds, and they only had 14 shots on us so we needed our goalie to step up, but she had a knee issue and we didn’t quite get that game under control.”
Drexel was led once again by junior attacker Charlotte Wood, who scored three goals to bring her season total to 36 at that point, while also adding to her ever-improving Tewaaraton Award résumé.
Next, the Dragons traveled to Williamsburg, Va. April 17 to face then-No. 17 (now No. 18) William and Mary (8-5, 3-1 CAA).
The game went back and forth early, with the two teams trading goals throughout the first half. At the 9:06 mark in the first, after Drexel’s senior defender Katie Blazer scored her 11th goal of the season, the game was all knotted up at four. But, after almost seven minutes of scoreless play, the Tribe scored two goals in the last two and a half minutes of the first to head into the break with a 6-4 lead over Drexel.
The second half began quickly in William and Mary’s favor, as the Tribe scored three goals in the first three minutes to take a 9-4 lead. But Drexel was quick to strike back, as they went on a four-goal run of their own to bring the score to 9-8 in favor of the Tribe.
That would be the last surge for the Dragons, as the Tribe would allow just one more Drexel goal while scoring six more goals in the final 15 minutes of the game. William and Mary would take the win with a final score of 15-9, although the game was more competitive than the score shows.
“William and Mary was a really nice fought game; they’re 18th in the country and we had several times gotten down by several points, and then came back into the game with like 12 minutes left in the game — it was a 10-9 game — and then they came ahead with a couple goals,” Vesco said. “And then we started coming out at them to try and get the ball back and they got a couple cheap ones in the end.”
Up next for the Dragons will be two home games against conference opponents James Madison University (10-3, 4-1 CAA) and George Mason University (3-12, 0-5 CAA). Vesco expects her team to take the win against the Patriots. However, Vesco considers the Dukes the toughest game on her team’s schedule.
“I expect us to go out as hard as we can [against JMU] and fight for every ball and fight for every play and I think we’re ready to do that,” Vesco said.
Heading into these two contests, as well as the homestretch of the season, the Dragons’ moral could be the winning factor in two of their next three games in order to clinch a CAA tournament berth.
“We bounced back really well after the loss at ODU and we had good focus at William and Mary but, you know, the game didn’t go our way,” Vesco said. “The moral is, get right back on the horse and full steam ahead. We feel like JMU is one of the best teams in the conference. We are really focused and ready to do some damage and I think the girls really understand that we need to get to another level for this weekend.”
As mentioned, Drexel does need to win two of their last three games in order to clinch a playoff berth. In fact, it would most definitely appease Vesco and her players if they got it out of the way in the first two games. In order to do that, the Dragons need to stay the course and not lose focus. Vesco went over her team’s strategy in order to do that.
“It’s going to be really a lot of focus in practice this week and just getting down to all the little petty stuff that’s been going on and correcting all that and getting really super focused and learning our game plan and executing it,” she said.
Down the stretch, the Dragons will be leaning heavily on the shoulders of attackers Wood and sophomore Alyse Maiden. The two players are Drexel’s top two scorers on the season, each having a total of 41 points.