The Drexel University women’s soccer team came into the Nov. 3 matchup against three-seed Northeastern University with a tangible feeling that this year could be something special. Ray Goon’s group surged down the stretch of the season, winning five of their last six games. The back line especially shined in these efforts, posting shutouts in all five of the victories and solidifying their reputation as perhaps the most stout defensive bunch in the Colonial Athletic Association. Their attack had also come to life of late, with senior Imani Walker’s insertion to the starting lineup providing a spark that complimented the established playmaking ability of forward Vanessa Kara.
With all these factors considered, the Dragons surely entered their CAA semifinal match as a two seed with great amounts of justifiable confidence in their abilities to potentially take home the title. The foe that stood in between them and their quest for a championship was a familiar one. Last year’s championship tournament featured this matchup in the finals, a game in which top-seeded Northeastern ended Drexel’s title hopes with a resounding 3-0 victory. But this year felt different — with Drexel now a year more experienced and a spot higher than the Huskies in the standings.
However, as is proven time and time again throughout the sporting universe, even the most stellar of seasons does not always end in a championship. And when Northeastern was able to beat keeper Christiana Ogunsami in just the 25th minute, and then did so once again just five minutes later, the luster that had surrounded this team for the final weeks of the season seemed to not shine as bright as it had once seemed. As has been characteristic of this group, they did not lay down in the face of this adversity, instead surging for much of the second half. But despite these chances (Madison Dunn and Shaelyn McCarty put one shot on goal each, while Imani Walker unleashed two strikes that had to be stopped by Nathalie Nidetch), it seemed as though on this day it was just not meant to be. When the final whistle died out the field, sending Northeastern to the championship (which they would go on to lose at the hands of Hofstra), so too did the 2017 season for the women’s team.
While this campaign did not end in the ultimate goal of a CAA title, the number and magnitude of the accomplishments that it contained should not be understated. The team finished with a record of 11-7-1 record, the second best in the past 20 years for the Dragons. Their CAA record of 6-2-1 is also second best in that span. On an individual level, this season led to the naming of six players to all-conference teams. Vanessa Kara, Christiana Ogunsami, and Kiera Hennessy all achieved first-team honors for the third, second and first time respectively. Madison Dunn earned all-CAA honors for the second time in her career with a second-team selection. Shaelyn McCarty and Wilhelmina Hauch-Fausboll earned third-team honors for the second times in each of their careers.
It also signifies perhaps the birth of a new chapter of Drexel dominance in the CAA women’s soccer domain, speaking to the work that Ray Goon has done since his takeover of the program in 1997. The 2017 season signaled a second straight playoff appearance as a two seed, and perhaps could be the sign of much more to come. While they will certainly miss the steadying presence of their senior leaders, the 2018 iteration of the Dragons will undoubtedly have the talent, experience and hunger to once again compete for a CAA crown.