As they prepare to get the season started, the team is filled with optimism on what should be a big year for the Dragons. Head coach Anna Marie Vesco feels a positive energy around this team as they await the start of the season.
“Last year, we were very competitive in the conference and made the tournament for first time,” Vesco said. “This season, we have the majority of our players back. Chemistry is really good and there’s an upbeat energy. This group has the making of achieving our goal, which is winning the [Colonial Athletic Association] Championship.”
The Dragons enter the season with a roster loaded with veteran talent, all of which contributes to that chemistry. Nine seniors help make up the roster, led by Charlotte Wood. The senior attacker had an incredible 2011 campaign and was a driving force behind much of the Dragons success. Wood led the team with 46 goals, allowing her to finish second in the CAA in points per game.
Returning juniors Alyse Maiden and Kelli Joran will join Wood as well. The two finished second and third, respectively, in scoring behind Wood. Jaclyn Klunder was tied with Joran for third in points last season, and she too will be returning as a senior. Klunder will once again play on attack alongside with Wood. The two were high school teammates and have been playing together for nearly ten years.
The veteran presence does not stop there, though. The senior duo of Julia Lanzetta and Emily Kane solidify the team’s defensive unit.
Sam Berger is another senior on the squad, and she will be looking to get back into action after not playing last season. She has only played in one of the past three seasons due to injury troubles.
The makeup of the roster is intriguing in that this is where the veteran presence ends. Looking in the net, the team has three goalies on the roster. Not one of them has more than a year’s worth of experience. Amanda Santandrea is the only non-freshmen in the group. She appeared in parts of eight games last season, facing 60 shots and posting a record of 0-1.
Rikki Moore and Teresha Bradley are the freshmen goalkeepers; two of the eight new recruits joining the veteran squad. Bradley has been impressive in practice, catching the eye of Vesco with what she described as “outstanding saves.”
Vesco and her staff have not decided on the starting goalie, or even who will be playing from the group, and will continue watching the competition in practice.
“Our goalies are fighting it out every day in practice,” she said.
With Santandrea already being experienced, and playing in a good amount of the games last season, she most likely stands a good chance of being the primary back up at the very least.
If they are capable of playing, the team looks like it has enough seniors and veterans to overcome the glaring inexperienced position on the roster. It will be interesting to see how any adversity is handled in that position, if any is faced. Vesco believes the seniors and veterans scattered in the other positions are enough to handle it if any is to arise.
“[The seniors] know the system and now it’s a matter of how they handle adversity on the field,” she said.
Vesco also said that the senior captains have been going through Leadership Academy.
“Our four senior captains have been going through Leadership Academy, so we are trying to prepare for all scenarios to achieve the highest number of conference wins in school history and winning the CAA title,” she added.
Leadership, she says, is the key to the season.
The season gets underway Feb. 19 against George Washington University at Drexel’s home, Vidas Field. It will be the first of four home games to open the season, and first of three non-conference matches before squaring off against some early CAA competition. Their first CAA matchup is against Hofstra University March 1. The Dragons dropped a close game against them last season, 9-8. It was part of a 3-4 conference record they posted, something they will of course look to improve if they want to be serious contenders for the conference title.
Outside of the conference, they did well and won six of the 10 games on that schedule. Nine of their first 10 opponents play outside of the conference, so if they perform well in those games, it could be a nice confidence boost with which to start the season.
“Every win on our schedule helps with a confidence boost,” Vesco said.
And with each win, they will move closer to getting another taste of a postseason performance again. With all of the seniors in their last year, especially Wood, this is their golden chance to build off of last year — and achieve more.
“The team is hungry for another post-season,” Vesco explained. “We had a taste of it and now we want more.”
It starts and ends with the seniors. The majority of the success on the field likely will be from their contributions. And if the inexperienced goalie group or anything else creates adversity, it will end with them and their leadership. They will be the ones that take care of all scenarios, looking to include winning in each one.
“The key to this season will be our leadership on the field,” Vesco added. “We are trying to prepare for all scenarios to achieve the highest number of conference wins in school history and winning the CAA title.”