Although they did their part over the weekend, the Drexel women’s soccer team’s season ended short of a Colonial Athletic Association playoff berth. The Dragons were eliminated Oct. 27 despite defeating the University of North Carolina Wilmington and the College of Charleston in their final two games.
Drexel entered the weekend with a small chance of earning a berth in the conference tournament. The standings and playoff scenarios required Drexel to win both Friday and Sunday and UNCW to lose to Delaware Sunday afternoon in order to secure the sixth and final seed.
Things got off to a perfect start in the Dragons’ mission for the playoffs. In a close game, decided late, Drexel came out victorious and — temporarily — still alive with a 1-0 victory over UNCW.
The game was an extremely close one, with each team keeping the opposition scoreless at halftime. Drexel managed to take five shots on goal, while the Seahawks fired off four at goalie Eve Badana. As the game grew late, the match remained scoreless. Christine Stevenson had a good look and attempted to give Drexel the lead but was turned away by UNCW goalkeeper Carolyn Huddy.
Finally, in the game’s 83rd minute of action, Drexel broke through and took the lead. Megan Hammaker, who had been at the center of all Drexel’s scoring lately, sent a corner kick in front of the net. Lauren Stollar connected on it and put it past Huddy for the game’s only goal.
However, the Seahawks would not go down quietly in the game’s final minutes with their own playoff chances on the line. With about two minutes remaining in regulation, Maddie McCormick tried to send the game to overtime, but Eve Badana made the game-clinching save and Drexel still had life — at least for another 36 hours. The save also secured Badana’s 17th career shutout, tying the all-time program record.
The Dragons took the momentum of the big win into Charleston. This time, they wasted no time becoming the first to score.
Five minutes into the game, it was Stollar again who gave Drexel the lead with her third goal in the last four games. The goal opened the floodgates for Drexel, and well before halftime was even in sight, the Dragons had a 4-0 lead after goals from Stevenson, Jess Sarkisian and Nicolette Wilkins.
Jade Reynolds scored Charleston’s only goal of the game right before halftime, but the Dragons were well on their way to their seventh victory of the season, a 4-1 final. It capped an impressive weekend, one in which the Dragons stepped up to the challenge.
“I think they did very well. Any time you go on the road it’s tough,” Ray Goon, head coach, said. “When you’re playing Friday and Sunday, it’s extra tough, so anytime you can come off a road weekend, well, that’s really good.”
Playing especially well at just the right time was Stollar. Her big weekend earned her CAA Co-Player of the Week honors, something that left her ecstatic.
“I’ve always admired those who have received this recognition, as they are extremely talented, elite players, and getting nominated to be among them was truly an honor,” she said.
After taking care of their own business, the Dragons were left with nothing to do but hope that UNCW would fall to the University of Delaware later that same afternoon. But they would not be so lucky, as the Seahawks defeated the Blue Hens to take the final playoff seed, leaving Drexel out.
“Unfortunately, things didn’t fall our way for the playoff spot, but we accomplished what we set out to do for the weekend,” Goon said.
Ultimately, the Dragons were done in by their struggles from previous weeks and matches. Goon spoke about a few games he wishes he and the team could get back. He talked about losses to James Madison University and Towson University, admitting that the team simply did not play well in the latter.
Goon also mentioned the loss against The College of William & Mary and said that the Tribe’s coach approached him after the game and actually admitted that he thought his team did not deserve the 2-0 victory.
“Obviously, our expectations were to return to the playoffs. Coming pretty close last year, that’s what we wanted, that’s what we felt we were capable of doing, and that’s why you’ve got to play the season,” Goon said. “I’m sure on paper it would have looked like we would have made it no problem.”
Drexel did suffer a number of injuries this season, which could explain why the team fell short. The Dragons experienced injuries to many, most notably captain Sam Greenfield.
“It’s tough. It’s unfair for me to say it was just the injuries we suffered because I think every team suffers injuries,” Goon said. “But that’s the challenge of the season, and you just have to persevere. … But to say [they] did not have an effect, it would not be true.”
With that, the Dragons will put to rest their 2013 campaign, one that, despite the disappointing record, saw them continue to push and work hard. Look no further than the way the team responded in the final weekend, including scoring four goals in the first 30 minutes, as confirmation that they played hard through the end. The hard work is why Goon regrets the record so much; it was just a tough year full of too many obstacles.
“It’s unfortunate; I don’t think the record reflects the way we’ve played. I think that’s a bit of a shame because the players worked really hard this year,” he said.
It’s a sentiment shared by the players, especially Stollar.
“When I heard that we didn’t make it to playoffs, I was devastated because I felt that with our team’s performance throughout the weekend, we definitely showed that we deserved to get that last playoff spot,” Stollar said. “Anyone watching our team in the last two games could have said the same because we all gave 100 percent and played our hearts out.”