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The Weekend of the Dragon September 25, 2012

Posted by Sam Angell in Field Hockey, General, Men's Soccer, Women's Soccer.
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While it was a tough weekend around town for the Philadelphia professional teams, it was quite the opposite out at the Vidas Athletic Complex at Drexel. Drexel’s three field sports, field hockey and men’s and women’s soccer went 4-0-1 this weekend and after all was said and done, all three were ranked regionally and one was in the national top 25.

It all started on Friday afternoon when the 23rd-ranked field hockey team got the ball rolling. Drexel gave up a goal in the first half, but tallied twice in the second half to edge James Madison, 2-1, its first Colonial Athletic Association game of the season at Vidas Field. Sophomore Christina Conrad scored the game-winning goal with just under seven minutes remaining in the game as the Dragons improved to 6-3 on the season. Amanda Fleischut scored the team’s other goal.

After field hockey, it was alumni night for the women’s soccer program. Approximately 20 former players showed up at the Kopp Lounge at the field house for a reception prior to the match between the Dragons, ranked sixth in the region, and George Mason. The Patriots stunned the crowd with a goal in the opening minutes, taking the early lead. It stayed that way until late in the match when sophomore Melissa Chapman’s header off a corner kick from Christine Stevenson evened it up at 1-1. The teams went to overtime before finishing the contest in a deadlock. With the tie, Drexel extended its unbeaten streak to eight matches, the longest streak in school history.

Saturday was a new day and the men’s soccer team had a daunting task in front of it. Not only was it the start of conference play, but Old Dominion would be making its last appearance as a CAA member at Vidas Field. The Monarchs, ranked as high as fourth in the nation entering the match, came in with a gaudy resume of six wins in six matches. Among their victims were No. 25 Navy, Seton Hall and Central Florida. But their most impressive win was a 2-1 victory at No. 2 Creighton in front of 6,800 rowdy fans. The Dragons felt good about themselves going in, but even the most confident fan couldn’t have seen this coming. Drexel scored two goals in the first 34 minutes on their way to a convincing 4-1 win.

Sophomore midfielder Michele Pataia had his first career multi-goal match with two scores. Mark Donohue and Fabio Machado also had goals, while Tim Washam made six stops in giving the Dragons their second win over a top-20 team in its last three home matches dating back to last year. With the win, the Dragons moved to 4-2-1 and entered the regional rankings for the first time this year at No. 9.

The Dragons capped off the weekend with two more games, two more wins and a pair of shutouts on Sunday. The field hockey team once again got it started at Buckley Field, this time with a 1-0 blanking of VCU. Junior forward Elise DiDonato scored the game-winning goal in the opening minutes of the second half for Coach Zelenak’s team and the defense held the Rams off the board the rest of the way. Sophomore Jantien Gunter recorded a career-best nine saves and her fourth shutout as Drexel picked up its seventh win of the season and handed VCU its first loss (7-1).

Just a few hundred yards away at the bottom of the hill on Vidas Field, the women’s soccer team was ready to try and duplicate field hockey’s success, and the Dragons did just that. It took a while as the visiting Towson Tigers bent but didn’t break in the first half as the teams went to intermission scoreless. The second half was a whole different story, as Drexel scored four times to remain unbeaten at home over the last two seasons. Chapman had another header for what proved to be the game-winner. After that the flood gates opened as Caitlin Gottier, Alex Vazquez and Jess Sarkisian scored for Coach Goon’s club. Eve Badana picked up her fifth shutout of the season, and the weekend at Vidas was complete.

For the first time since joining the league, Drexel had both a men’s and women’s CAA Player of the Week. Chapman got the award for the women, while Pataia got the award for the men. He was also named to the College Soccer News.com National Team of the Week. All three teams opened the CAA seasons with wins, but all know that one weekend at Vidas doesn’t make a season. There will be more battles ahead in conference play this weekend as field hockey travels to Towson, women’s soccer goes to both UNCW and Georgia State, while Coach Hess and his men travel to William & Mary.


Men’s Soccer’s Day Off in Colorado September 5, 2012

Posted by Sam Angell in Men's Soccer.
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While women’s soccer was in Hawaii, the men’s soccer team was on a western trip of its own, visiting Colorado for games at Denver and Air Force. On the day off in between games, the Dragons got to take in some of the breathtaking Rocky Mountain scenery.

It’s no secret that the mountainous air in Colorado can do funny things to athletes. That was on the Dragons’ minds as they made the journey from Denver to Colorado Springs, going from 5,200 feet above sea level to 7,200 feet above. During the trip, the players sipped on gallon jugs of water. Staying hydrated was a key to adapting to the elevation.

For some of the players, the roadside scenery left them speechless. Not surprisingly, head coach Doug Hess had no such problem. During the drive, Hess and senior goalkeeper Tim Washam had a spirited debate about what Pikes Peak would sound like if it could talk. That is, if they’d let Pikes Peak get a word in edgewise.

The team went straight to the Air Force Academy, where the Dragons went to the field and began getting acclimated to being 2,000 feet higher than they were in the Mile High City, where they’d earned a 3-3 draw with the host Denver Pioneers. Air Force football was playing Northern Idaho in its season opener about five miles down the road, so campus was pretty quiet as the Dragons took to the field. The team played some 4 v. 1 (think “monkey in the middle”) with trainer Scott Ellis taking the brunt of the abuse for a half an hour of warmups.

After practice, the Dragons headed to the Garden of the Gods. They took photos and marveled at the natural wonders, particularly the Balanced Rock area of the Garden. John Grosh is among those pictured below at the Balanced Rock, while Malcolm LeBourne paid tribute to a former Colorado hero, Tim Tebow.

The visit to the Garden of the Gods concluded with Coach Hess challenging his players to a run up the hill. Unfortunately for him, he remembered pretty quickly that the oxygen levels were no joke. In the end, he was content just to make it to the top, whether it was first or last.

The conditioning paid off for the guys, however. Twenty-four hours later, the Dragons got their first win of the season by knocking off the host Falcons, 2-1 in overtime. Matheus Goncalves got his first two collegiate goals, as the Massachusetts native had no trouble adjusting to life 7,000 feet above the sea.

Kenny’s Game November 4, 2011

Posted by Sam Angell in Men's Soccer.
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Last week, as they sat waiting for word on whether or not their game with James Madison would be postponed (it was), the men’s soccer team found themselves with a little time on their hands. Not being one to sit around and do nothing, Ken Tribbett took charge of creating a new game to pass the time. Naturally, it became known as “Kenny’s Game.”

Similar to cornhole or horseshoes, the game involved teams of three trying to hit their opponent’s target or come closest to doing so. The targets, set up on tables in the team lounge, were stacks of 10 practice cones, with each player getting one shot per turn. Players got points for landing on the table (much harder than you might think), glancing off the target, leaning on the target, and a maximum of 10 points for landing directly on top of the target.

The teams were made up of Tribbett, Andrew Goldberg and trainer Scott Ellis on one side:

And John Boswell, Phillip Hagerty and assistant coach Cory Robertson on the other.

Not surprisingly, Ken took control early of his own game, with his team jumping out to a big lead early on the strength of a couple glancing blows and Ellis’ ability to land on the slick table surface. But momentum seemed to shift when a controversial ruling by Ken – it is his game, after all – negated a 10-point shot by Hagerty. Apparently Tribbett had called for a timeout to collect discs just before Hagerty released his shot, which landed perfectly on the stack of yellow cones on the opposite table.

The 10 points did not count, but Hagerty and the challengers had found their stroke. Soon, they were piling up the table shots and had quickly chipped away at the lead until they were dead even. Playing to 21, they pulled away late and won with a six-point turn, 21-16.

Despite his loss in the first officially-recognized playing of Kenny’s Game, Tribbett hopes that the game will soon be sweeping the nation. Is a TV deal in the works? Possibly. But for now, it’s sure to be a time-wasting tradition in the Drexel men’s soccer locker room.

Q&A with Doug Hess August 30, 2011

Posted by Sam Angell in Men's Soccer.
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The Drexel men’s soccer team begins its season Wednesday afternoon at Villanova. Recently, we sat down with second-year head coach Doug Hess to discuss his thoughts on the upcoming season and the Dragons’ first opponent, Villanova.

Hess also took the time to answer a few more questions giving fans a more detailed idea of what they can expect from the 2011 Dragons.

Q: Last year as you were preparing to enter your first season here at Drexel, you said that you were less concerned with wins and losses than establishing the program. How much progress do you feel the team made last year? How has that focus shifted heading into Year Two?

Doug Hess: “I am not so sure the focus has shifted much from where we were last year.  Obviously we want to win more and such, but the reality is we are still building a program and not a season.  We want to build a consistent conference contender and to do so takes time.  I do believe we are another step forward in that direction.  The guys had a solid spring season and we want to continue with that momentum.

“I do believe we are better than we were last year.  Time helps growth.  We are another year into it and further along in understanding what one another wants and expects.  I am certain we will have our share of growing pains through the fall, but I am confident that this program is moving in the right direction.”

Q: This year’s team doesn’t have a whole lot of senior leadership. How much of a challenge is that going to be for the underclassmen, and how much of a benefit will that be as they progress through the rest of their careers? Conversely, what are your expectations for Andrew Goldberg as the senior on the squad, and who else do you view as leaders?

DH: “I do not believe for a moment that you need to be an upperclassman or a senior or a certain age to be a leader.  To be a leader you need experience and of our returning nineteen players, fifteen of them started in at least two games or more last year.  All nineteen, plus two that joined us in January, started at least one game in the spring.  This translates to college experience, which breeds familiarity, and with that, understanding. 

“Andrew is having his last go at it and of course we expect a lot of him.  Mostly, we want him to be an example of consistency.  He is a guy that needs to lead our attack and be a continual presence in the final third of the field.”

Q: Speaking of the youth on the team, the Dragons will feature seven freshmen. How much of an impact do you anticipate them having on the field right off the bat, and what are some of your goals for them in their first collegiate season?

DH: “It is always interesting to see how a new group of guys meshes in with those that have established themselves on the team already.  With another large group of newcomers, no doubt the most important thing will be getting them familiar with how we do things—from training to fitness to lifting to taking care of ourselves.  It is imperative that we get these guys acclimatized to our team.  The quicker they can, the bigger the impact they can make.

“I am confident they will make an impact in our team.  Whether that is on the field right away or making training that much more competitive, they will have a role to fill.  It is a college soccer season where you play a lot of games in a short period of time.  This being the case, we will see injury, we will see a dip in performance and we may have two non-results tied together.  When this happens, the depth of your team is challenged.  These seven newcomers have added to the depth of our team and who knows, we may see one of them find their way into the mix straight away.”

Q: The team’s top four goal scorers from last season are back this year. Will that help the offensive consistency of a team that showed the potential to be a strong attack last year?

DH: “It is always a positive to return guys that have scored for you in the past—if you have scored in the past; you are more likely to score in the future.  Pagey, G, and Malcolm were a big part of making us tick up front last year and they will be equally important to us this fall. 

“Last year we scored twenty-nine goals, the most for Drexel since 2002, and were balanced in our scoring—six different guys scored three or more goals.  These are good qualities to have within a team, but we are still looking for that consistent goal scorer.  It has been some time since we had a 10+ goal scorer for the Dragons (the ’94 season to be exact) and it will be fun to see if one emerges this fall.  I do believe we have several guys that are capable of the task.

Q: The starting goalkeeper job went back and forth a little bit last season, especially early on. Fill us in on how that competition stands heading into this year.

DH: “Hopefully, it will be equally competitive.  The goalkeeper position must have the most competition in order to ensure that the one that plays is at his sharpest.  While Pentti established himself as the one last year, he knows that both Tres and Tim are in the mind to challenge that spot.

“Cory [Robertson] has done a great job with creating the competitive environment for all of our goalkeepers in training.  Now it is just a matter of establishing who will be the most consistent and therefore, grab the top spot.”

Q: Defensively, who will you be relying upon to anchor the group, and what do you hope to see out of that end of the field?

DH: “While it is clear that both Tal and Kenny anchor us defensively at the back and in the midfield respectively, it is essential our team buys into eleven, engaged players when we are not in possession of the ball.  While both guys can do a lot for us individually, it is the collective whole that will solve the game for us. 

“It is no secret we gave too many goals last season, twenty-seven total.   We have grown a lot in this area in the transition of fall last year to spring to the current fall season.  Our ability to defend in all areas of the field, in varying situations, is as important as our ability to create goal-scoring opportunities.

Q: You’ve said that you believe the midfield is where most games are won and lost. How is this year’s team equipped in that area?

DH: “This is true, it is a soccer philosophical belief of mine that most games are won and lost between the boxes.  If you can control that area of the field, albeit offensively or defensively, you can often control the tempo of the game. 

“It is vital to my teams to have a midfield with traits of creativity, high levels of fitness, patience, composure, as well as awareness since the game is played in all directions.  Kenny, Phil, Brandon and John all played strong roles last year in establishing a workman-like midfield and will do so again this year.   

“All that being said, soccer is still a game of moments and if you can be at your best in the right moments, you can find ways to win games.”

Q: What is your outlook on the Colonial Athletic Association race this year?

DH: “I am not sure a crystal ball could even predict this one.  I believe there are the perennial front-runners as the pre-season rankings show, but no one earns a championship in the pre-season and the games still need to be played.  I say it at the start of every year, conference games are conference games and in the Colonial it is no different. 

“Last year after nine rounds of intra-league play, just four points separated second place from last—that’s crazy!  This conference is so tight, last year 73% of all sixty-six games were decided by a goal or less, again that is crazy.  It is clear to me that you are never out of it in the Colonial.  Games need to be played and games need to be finished off, the moment you think you can take breath or relax, someone is going to be gunning for you.  One thing is for certain; it will be a roller-coaster ride!”