DES MOINES, Iowa - Sophomore Ashlie Stokes (Sioux City, Iowa/Sioux City North) delivered the game-winning goal off a header in the box in the 78th minute (77:40) to propel the Drake women's soccer team to a 2-1 victory over Northern Illinois in the season opener for both squads on Friday (Aug. 17) at the Cownie Soccer Complex.
The Bulldogs' triumph marked only the third time in the program's 11-year history that Drake has garnered a win in its season opener and the first since a 2-1 overtime victory versus North Dakota State in 2009.
The two sides waged a nip-and-tuck affair in the initial stanza as each team registered four shots in a scoreless first half.
The Bulldogs cracked into the scoring column first when junior Brittany Schuling (Bondurant, Iowa/Bondurant-Farrar) connected on a penalty kick at the 46:31 mark.
Drake maintained the advantage until the Huskies netted the equalizer on a goal by Anna Roman-Pleschko in the 68th minute (67:44). Northern Illinois capitalized off a cross that was punched into the middle of the box from the right side off the foot of Nici Newquist, who was credited with the assist.
Nearly 10 minutes of back-and-forth soccer ensued before Stokes' heroics.
Off a corner kick, Schuling swung a ball into the box in which Stokes delivered past goalkeeper Amy Carr with a flick of her head from less than three yards out. The goal was the first of the season for Stokes and the second of her career.
On the strength of a 7-6 second-half shot advantage, the Bulldogs outshot Northern Illinois, 11-10.
Junior Generve Charles (Wausau, Wis./Wausau East) and freshman Rhian Pritchard (Overland Park, Kan./Blue Valley North) paced the Drake attack with a game-high three shots apiece. Four Huskies each garnered two shots.
Junior Kalena Litch (Plymouth, Minn./Wayzata) pulled in six saves for the Bulldogs to close to within three stops of surpassing Kate Stack (230 saves, 2002-04) and moving into second place in career saves at Drake. Deanna Libricz registered two stops for Northern Illinois before leaving the game with an injury in the second half.
The Bulldogs return to action on Sunday (Aug. 19) as Drake travels to Lincoln, Neb., to battle Nebraska in a 1:00 p.m. tilt.