In the waning moments of the regular season, the Drexel University women’s soccer team still felt that there was much to prove. While a second-straight playoff appearance was assured following their senior day victory Oct. 15, the Dragons took the field this past week hoping to secure a first round bye in the upcoming Colonial Athletic Association tournament and enter the postseason with plenty of momentum.
This quest began in Harrisonburg, Virginia, in a contest against the Dukes of James Madison University. JMU came into the contest in the midst of a playoff push themselves, needing a victory to pull to an even 4-4 record in conference play. From the outset, this desperation was evident and proved to be a difficult factor for the Dragons to overcome. Drexel was able to stay with the Dukes for much of an evenly played first half in which neither team was able to find the back of the net. And, in the second half, the Dragons seized the lead early on when junior defender Emma Heckenberg was able to connect with the always-dangerous Madison Dunn on a corner kick sequence. Dunn’s shot in traffic made its way past JMU keeper Hannah McShea for her fourth goal of the season.
The Dukes came right back fighting, and after a series of chances the formidable Drexel defense finally yielded when a shot from James Madison’s Haley Crawford fired a rebound past a helpless Christiana Ogunsami to even the score. While the Dragons were able to force overtime, the momentum from this late equalizer carried over to the extra period, when Brittany Borum put a shot on goal that Ogunsami was unable to handle cleanly, giving James Madison the critical victory that they needed and sending Drexel home with a hard-fought defeat.
Their attention then turned to the final game of the regular season — a matchup with the surging Elon University Phoenix. While their conference record was a paltry 2-3-3, Elon entered the match riding high from a road victory at the University of Delaware, which improved their overall record to an impressive 9-5-4. This one, along with the weekend’s other results, would be the deciding factor in determining the playoff seeding behind an undefeated Hofstra University squad. With this in mind Drexel hit the road and arrived in Elon determined to make a statement heading into postseason play.
And oh what a statement they made. While Elon actually outshot Drexel for the day (14-11) and each side had the same number of shots on goal (six), it was the visitors whose chances were far superior in terms of quality. Just 21 minutes into the game, late-season addition to the starting lineup Imani Walker put the Dragons ahead by heading in a rebound chance created by Madison Dunn. Later in the half, Shaelyn McCarty scored her fourth goal of the year on a beautiful setup from midfielder Rachel Sharkey.
The onslaught continued after halftime, when in the 49th minute Raenah Campbell handled a through ball from Imani Walker and sent it in past Elon’s Hanna Macaulay to give the Dragons the 3-0 advantage. With the commanding lead, Drexel’s cornerstone, its defensive prowess, took over and put the game away. Led by School of Education Athlete of the Week Kiera Hennessy, this unit preserved its ninth shutout of the season. In the 82nd minute, when sophomore Melissa Lyon finished a 2-1 advantage against the goalie with her second goal of the year, the celebration could officially begin for Drexel. The win promised an opening weekend bye for the group, who now can comfortably sit back for the Oct. 29 quarterfinal and watch as Northeastern University and the College of Charleston fight for the right to face them in the semifinal game Nov. 3. It also ended an impressive regular season, in which Drexel achieved an 11-6-1 overall record, including 6-2-1 in conference play. Stay tuned next Friday as the women’s team looks to punctuate this year with a run at the CAA title.