If you were to find your way onto any field, court, pool or other venue of competitive sport, there is a high probability that at some point in your athletic career you would hear the following time-honored tenet: “Defense wins championships.” And while today it is an almost cheesy admission of a broadcaster or coach’s lack of other insight into the game at hand, its fundamental message still rings true. For as much attention is garnered by those sending shots at the net, oftentimes it is the quiet members of the back line that determine the difference between a successful campaign and one that leaves something to be desired.
As Drexel University’s women’s soccer team entered a new week of competition, the challenges of a road trip awaited. This one yielded contests against the Blue Hens of the University of Delaware and the Seahawks of the University of North Carolina Wilmington. And while much of the praise for the previous week’s contests were aimed at the Vanessa Kara-led attack (and rightly so), this week’s story quite simply came down to the dominance of the Dragon who prides herself on being the last line of defense. Christiana Ogunsami and her back line proved why this year’s team could be something truly special.
The Delaware match was a unique test for the women’s team, who took the field Oct. 5 hoping to achieve the program’s first ever victory against the Blue Hens on their home field. While Delaware was off to an uncharacteristically difficult start to the season (0-2 in the conference prior to that evening), it was still the Blue Hens who looked poised to strike first. However, after some attempts were turned back by Christiana Ogunsami, it was Drexel who took the lead first when Vanessa Kara served a corner to Madison Dunn, who buried it in the back of the net. Dunn’s goal added another notch to her impressive early campaign, representing her third of the year. Kara’s second assist of the season, her first since their match against Penn Sept. 14, cemented her form as one of the best in the Colonial Athletic Association.
While 1-0 games are characteristically edge-of-the-seat occasions for an onlooker, a Drexel fan has been able to sit back and relax this season with the confidence that Ogunsami would keep the opponent’s goal sheet strikingly clean. This night was no exception — she tallied up her third save early in the second half before the Drexel defense ratcheted down and kept any other balls from reaching her in the evening. A second goal for the Dragons, this one off the foot of Imani Walker, put the win on ice, emphatically ending their winless streak in Newark.
After such emotional wins as that which was reeled in Oct. 5, many coaches are wary of a letdown performance. Ray Goon had nothing to fear for his group, as they took care of business in their second and final leg of their road trip in Wilmington against UNCW. This doesn’t say that there weren’t stressful moments. A sequence in the first half that yielded seven corner kicks in 10 minutes tested Ogunsami, and a stretch after halftime required the last-ditch efforts of defenders to sweep the ball off the line to preserve the scoreless record. The post was rattled twice in a period of 10 minutes.
But as good teams often do, Drexel made good use of the counterattack and made UNCW pay for their aggression. As usual, the scoring chance was spearheaded by Vanessa Kara, whose pass to Imani Walker was shared with Rachel Sharkey for a tap-in goal in the 70th minute, effectively deflating the Seahawks and their chances of picking up a home victory.
This productive week leaves Drexel in an enviable position in the conference with a record of 4-1-1. That record is good enough for second on the table and leaves them dangerously close to locking up a second straight appearance in the CAA tournament. It also represents the third win in a row for the team. As for their leaders, Ogunsami’s two shutouts were enough for her to be named a Drexel School of Education Athlete of the Week, while on the other end of the field Kara has tallied a goal or an assist in six of her last eight matches. The women’s team looks to continue their hot streak into the last stretch of the season. They take on College of Charleston at home Oct. 15 in their only game of the weekend.