Two games into conference play, the Drexel women’s soccer team’s unbeaten streak remains intact at nine and counting. The first two teams in the conference to get a shot at breaking the streak, George Mason and Towson universities, failed to snap the Dragon’s run.
The most recent set of games that added to the run took place Sept. 21 and 23 at Vidas Field, with a matchup against George Mason officially kicking off conference play. Drexel and the Patriots played to a 1-1 tie.
Melissa Chapman was able to tie it for the Dragons with a late second-half goal. The goal came off a corner kick from Christine Stevenson, allowing Chapman to head the ball in the top corner of the net. The goalies, Lyndse Hokanson for Mason and Eve Badana for Drexel, as well as the defenses, did not budge in either overtime, resulting in the draw.
It was not the ideal result for Drexel, which had won three in a row up until that game, but head coach Ray Goon was satisfied.
“We certainly wanted the three points, but considering the way we played after giving up the early goal and battling back, I thought overall we played well,” he said.
The Patriots had their chances to put the game away in the second half and come away with a win. On one particular play, junior defender Andi Stampone made a sliding tackle just outside the goal to break the ball up from Kelly Pizzingrilli on a near breakaway. Another great play saw Badana make a big save on a shot near the crossbar by tipping the ball away on one of her four saves.
“Having every person on the pitch — no matter what position — execute their role with confidence is a huge contributor [to] our unbeaten streak,” Badana said.
The weekend ended with Drexel blanking Towson 4-0. The scorers for the Dragons were Chapman, Caitlin Gottier, Alex Vazquez and Jess Sarkisian, in that order.
The productive weekend from Chapman, which included the game-tying goal against the Patriots and the game-winning goal against the Tigers, led to her being named the CAA women’s soccer co-Player of the Week.
Chapman was equally impressive on the defensive end. The shutout was Drexel’s sixth this season. More importantly, the Dragons are winning games, including seven of their first 10, and continue to set the pace as the best start in the program’s history.
“Not only has the team fulfilled its defensive roles this season, we have also come together to make sure we are winning games,” Badana said.
Badana, like Goon, pointed to the cohesive defensive unit as the big reason for the defensive effort’s success.
“I think the key to our success [thus] far in the season is our ability to work as a cohesive unit,” she said. “I think that the four ladies in front of me at any given time are willing to work and sacrifice to defend the goal, and that is what gives our defensive unit life.”
It was a strong showing for Drexel in their first taste of CAA competition this season. In Goon’s eyes, it showed they are on the right track.
“To me, the way we performed these last two matches confirms that we are really finding our rhythm and that everyone is starting to understand the importance of their roles, on and off the field,” Goon said.
It also marked improvement from last season’s set against the same two opponents, as Goon and Badana pointed out. Last year they split the contests for three points, but this year they won and tied to capture the additional fourth point.
“I think that highlights the improvement in our initial games compared to last year,” Badana said.
They look to keep the momentum going as they continue rolling through the conference schedule. Coming up next will arguably be one of the more challenging stretches, as they will not return home to Vidas Field until Oct. 7.
Their upcoming road trip will begin Sept. 28 with a matchup against the University of North Carolina Wilmington. The Seahawks are on the Dragons’ heels in the standings with a 6-4-1 record, coming off a 4-2 victory against Northeastern on the road.
To complete the weekend set, Drexel will continue farther south against Georgia State University, which has yet to win a conference game this season. That does not mean the Panthers could not present a challenge to Drexel or even knock the team off its course.
“Each match presents its own set of challenges that could disrupt our focus and rhythm,” Goon said.
Among the challenges are the extra travel to more southern locations and, again, the factor of conference play in more difficult road matchups.
“We’ll have to endure more travel this weekend than our other CAA matchups, so we’ll have to make sure we take the extra measures necessary in our preparation to perform with the consistency we’ve displayed thus far,” Goon said. “Both teams are very solid at home with some very talented players, so we’ll expect a real battle as usual.”
Road play has been a challenge for Drexel, but Badana and the team will look to prove they have overcome that struggle this season, starting with the two matches this weekend.
“In the past, away weekends have been a struggle, and I think this will be an opportunity to show that we have overcome that obstacle.”
She expects the team to play at its best to combat the opposition. They do have a small target on their backs, running a rather lengthy unbeaten streak into two road contests.
“I think that both teams respectively will be adamant in earning points at home, so we will have to really dig deep as a team and make them play our game.”
They will have to if they wish to see the streak reach double digits.