When the schedules come out at the start of each Colonial Athletic Association season, some games are circled as potential conference deciders, others as senior-night games, and finally some as absolute must-wins. Every now and again, the list makers throw up a fixture that blends all three into a compelling end-of-season prospect.
When Drexel (6-8-4, 4-4-2 CAA) takes to the field Oct. 30 to play the University of Delaware (8-6-3, 4-3-2 CAA) in Newark, Del., the two sides will be meeting for the 14th time in their storied histories. Of those 14 games, Drexel has only come away with a win once, drawing another and losing the remaining 12. Drexel’s last win came in the final game of the 2006 season, when goals by Carly Snyder and Christine Murta were enough for the Dragons to record a narrow 2-1 win on senior night.
With the program’s first postseason appearance at stake, one would expect Drexel to show the record books scant regard.
Head coach Ray Goon’s Dragons went into last weekend’s road doubleheader against Towson and George Mason armed with the knowledge that they would have to win away from home for the first time this year in order to stand any chance of remaining in the mix for a postseason berth.
Before the games, Goon spoke about his side’s approach to the vital conference matches.
“The team is confident,” he said. “They know that they are capable, and it has been evident in their training this week. They also know that the game is won or lost on the field game day, not just at practice. We, as a team, are all focused on the task ahead. We want to be in the conference playoffs, and that’s where our attention is right now.”
Drexel’s defensive confidence was definitely evident in the first game against Towson (9-9, 4-6 CAA) when they held a lively Tigers forward line to only two shots on goal with freshman goaltender Eve Badana, who only had to make two saves over the duration of the match. The halftime score of 0-0 lasted well into the second half, as it seemed that resolute defense from both sides would preserve the stalemate.
In the 75th minute, though, a searching cross from sophomore forward Emily Barnes down the right wing was flicked on at the near post by the onrushing Katlyn Axenfeld. The ball eventually found its way to the Tigers’ leading scorer, Cheyene Skidmore, who volleyed the ball past Badana to give the Tigers an unlikely lead that they held until the final whistle. Drexel’s eighth road loss of the season would force the Dragons into the Oct. 23 game against high-flying George Mason (7-6-5, 4-3-3 CAA) looking for a win that would keep their hope of a postseason berth alive.
Drexel took the home side to task early in the first half when a pass from freshman forward Megan Hammaker found Jenna Lindsay with time and space. Drexel’s all-time leading scorer obliged with a ferocious shot past the goalkeeper to put the Dragons ahead with barely 15 minutes on the clock in the first half.
The Dragons would return to bother George Mason netminder Lyndse Hokason 20 minutes later when an inviting cross from forward Jess Lowinger found the head of Jess Sarkisian and doubled the Dragons’ lead going into halftime. With a rare road win on the horizon, Drexel began the second half looking to preserve their advantage and restrict the home side’s front line.
The Dragons were successful in doing so until the 87th minute of the match when the Patriots’ Nicole Peters got her head to a Jazmin Cardoso corner, bringing the home side within a goal of squaring up the match.
Drexel’s defense would hold off the home side’s renewed assault until the final whistle rang out and handed the visiting side its first win on the road this fall season. The win saw Drexel (6-8-4, 4-4-2 CAA) maintain its postseason hunt with 14 points, level with its final opponent, Delaware.
The Blue Hens, who still have to play UNC Wilmington Oct. 28 before they face off against Drexel, have had mixed fortunes on the field the last few weeks. They defeated Towson 4-2 last time out, ending a four-match winless streak that included draws against Virginia Commonwealth University (7-7-4, 5-2-3 CAA) and James Madison University (9-8-1, 5-4-1 CAA), as well as losses to William & Mary (14-2-2, 9-1 CAA) and George Mason, respectively.
Delaware’s main threat will be the tandem duo of senior Amy Pickard and junior Ali Miller, who have combined to score 18 goals and assists on eight goals so far this season. The Blue Hens’ home record of 3-2-2 also provides grim readings for the visiting Dragons.
With as many as seven teams still with a legitimate chance of getting that all-important postseason berth, it will be a case of musical chairs Oct. 30 as the scores filter in from each game.
When the music stops, we will all be hoping that Drexel will have a seat at the postseason table.