DES MOINES, Iowa - The opportunity for an outright Missouri Valley Conference regular season title was within reach for the Drake women's soccer team, but unfortunately, its attempt was thwarted by Illinois State's 2-1 victory past the Bulldogs (12-5-2, 3-1-2 MVC) on a windy evening at the Cownie Soccer Complex on Thursday (Oct. 25).
The loss drops Drake to the No. 3 seed at the upcoming MVC Tournament that begins on Sunday (Oct. 28), while the Redbirds (11-4-2, 4-2 MVC) were elevated to the No. 2 seed and received a bye into the tournament semifinals that will be played Nov. 2 in Omaha, Neb.
"The wind (sustained 22 MPH, gusting 30 MPH+) was certainly a factor in the game," Drake head coach Lindsey Horner commented. "We battled back for the equalizer into the wind and that gave us some momentum going into halftime. I felt we had them pinned in for the first 12 minutes or so of the second half, but to their credit Illinois State held us and made good on their first real chance of the second half against the run of play."
"These are the types of games our players train for. I couldn't be more proud of our team; win or lose, our performance was impressive this evening. I wish our girls could have experienced the joy of getting a result and going undefeated in league play, but in the end they played with intensity and passion and left it all on the field."
Illinois State grabbed the early momentum in the affair registering the game's first goal in the sixth minute (5:17) off a header from Rachel Tejada. The 15th tally of the season from Tejada was courtesy of a pass into the box from Kyla Cross.
The Redbirds held serve in the initial stanza until senior Laura Moklestad (Des Moines, Iowa/Roosevelt) delivered her fifth goal of the season at the 35:11 mark. The ball was served into the box by freshman Kylie DeHaven (Olathe, Kan./Olathe East), who earned her first career assist on the goal.
Illinois State registered a 12-8 advantage in shots in the first half, but entered the intermission tied with Drake at one.
The Bulldogs dominated the pace of play to begin the final 45 minutes but were unable to capitalize with a go-ahead tally.
A give-and-go by Tejada to Anna Stinson resulted in what proved to be the game-winning goal for the Redbirds in the 59th minute (58:08).
Drake's offense struggled to get off shots down the stretch as the Bulldogs garnered only two for the remainder of the contest. Shots from junior Brittany Schuling (Bondurant, Iowa/Bondurant-Farrar) and Moklestad at the 87:11 and 89:25 marks, respectively, were both saved by Illinois State goalkeeper Aryn Newsom.
The Redbirds finished the affair posting a 21-12 advantage in shots led by three apiece from Abby Van Deventer, Stinson and Tejada. Collecting a game-high five shots for the Bulldogs was Schuling, while sophomore Ashlie Stokes (Sioux City, Iowa/Sioux City North) and Moklestad added four- and three-shot efforts.
Newsom recorded a game-high eight saves for the Redbirds, while junior goalkeeper Kalena Litch (Plymouth, Minn./Wayzata) notched five stops for Drake.
"Our fans came out in force and I think they got to see a great game in which both goalkeepers came up big," said Horner. "The support from the athletic department and other student-athletes was fantastic tonight and positively impacted our performance. While it stings to have lost the opportunity to clinch the regular season title, we look forward to one more game at home. I have no doubt that if we show up on Sunday with the same mentality that we will put ourselves in a great position to advance in the MVC Tournament."
The Bulldogs will open MVC Tournament play hosting sixth-seeded Creighton on Sunday (Oct. 28) at Cownie Soccer Complex starting at 1:00 p.m.