Emblazoned on the covers of disaster survival manuals, one usually finds a phrase such as “Be Prepared.” What goes without saying is the inherent admonition from Douglas Adams’s classic Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “Don’t Panic.”
In a week that saw office buildings evacuated and social media sites swamped as we handled the biggest earthquake to hit the East Coast in 65 years, Drexel’s women’s varsity soccer team displayed textbook sang-froid as they dealt with their own “disaster.”
Predicted by an early season poll by the Colonial Athletic Association head coaches, Drexel was expected to finish bottom of the conference for the second season running. Drexel travelled to Piscataway, N.J., on Aug. 22 to take on Big East perennial favorite Rutgers in the Dragons’ first game of the 2011 season.
What transpired was a tense affair that belied the reality that both teams had only returned to full practice one week earlier. The first half yielded the only goal of the game as a Rutgers corner kick was deflected over sophomore goalkeeper Victoria Troccoli and tucked away by Scarlet Knight sophomore Jonelle Filgno. It was Rutgers’ only clear goal-scoring opportunity of the half, as Drexel’s defense restricted them to just three shots at goal.
The second half was a repeat of the first as freshman goalkeeper Eva Badana excelled in goal, pulling off four saves in her first outing for the blue and gold. It was a half that saw Drexel unable to turn their possession into clear-cut goal-scoring opportunities as Rutgers’ stingy defense held the Dragons to one shot on goal for the entirety of the match.
Head coach Ray Goon was asked after the game what he thought about his team’s statistics.
“We don’t pay too much attention to the ‘shots on goal’ stat,” he said. “I felt that there were a number of situations where we had their defense under pressure and out of shape in our offensive third of the field.
“We didn’t take enough advantage of these moments, but we did very well to create them. The season-ending injury to Ash[ley Klun] is a big loss, but it will be up to the entire team to overcome this challenge. It’s always a lot easier when everyone chips in.”
Appearing mostly off the bench, Ashley Klun’s three goals last season came at vital spots, including a late winner in the season opener against UMBC. Her season ending ACL injury was unwelcome preseason news for a Drexel forward line that struggled at times to score goals away from home last season.
Her loss, though, may offer opportunities for other players, and it would have done Drexel fans plenty of good to see an 18-woman squad Aug. 22 that married both experience and youth.
Goon commented on the makeup of his squad at this early juncture of the season after their first loss.
“You never want to lose, but you also have to be patient as players become more acclimated with each other’s tendencies and our overall team style of play,” Goon said. “I feel that our team’s performance Monday was very solid in some areas, but also showed some others that still need work. Our physical effort was very good Monday, but our mental focus strayed at times. We’ll need to be more consistent with that aspect of the game.”
This mental focus will be tested again as Drexel takes part in their first two-game weekend of the season.
First up Aug. 26 will be a game at La Salle’s McCarthy stadium. Drexel takes on a challenging Explorers side that returns nine starters from last season – kick off is slated for 7 p.m.
Of particular interest will be La Salle’s sophomore goal-scoring phenom Renee Washington. Washington lit up the Atlantic-10 Conference last year with 12 goals and three assists in 21 games as she propelled the head coach Paul Royal’s side to a postseason berth.
Ominously for Drexel, Washington has already found the back of the net twice in La Salle’s first game of the season, a two-goal win over University of Delaware, and will be looking to test a Drexel defense that is boosted by return of redshirt Jourdan Halasz and co-captain Katie Duncan.
Drexel will then return to the Vidas Complex Aug. 28 for their home opener against an out-of-sorts Delaware State side – kickoff is slated for 3 p.m.
Boasting a record of 0-2 that includes thrashings at the hands of Campbell University – the Hornets lost that game by five goals – and a loss to Binghamton, coach Nitan Soni’s side comes to West Philadelphia in desperate need of a kick start to their season.
There will be few gifts on hand as Goon’s side comes through the week with a clean bill of health and will be further aided by the support of a fanatical home crowd.
In a weekend that will see storm clouds gather over the City of Brotherly Love as hurricane Irene pays a visit, Goon’s Dragons will have to show team work, resourcefulness and mental strength to get over their shaky start to the season.
If the attitude in practice midweek is anything to go by, the Dragons’ loyal fans will be in for some earth shaking performances.