Drexel soccer is back.
After struggling to find the back of the net the past two seasons and posting only three victories combined in 2016 and 2017, this year’s Dragons team has already equaled the win total of the past two seasons after opening the season with three wins and a draw.
“We’ve made some timely saves, we’ve had a willingness to defend our penalty box a little more and some front players who can change the game for us,” head coach Doug Hess said. “I think all of those things have lent themselves to us getting off to a good start.”
The offense was the story in the first three games with transfer Kwesi Allen opening the season with a brace against Binghamton and transfer Griffin Mallas chipping in a goal in each of the first two matches. Freshman Chris Donovan, the reigning Pennsylvania High School Player of the Year, opened his scoring account in a 3-0 win at George Mason. Sophomore midfielder Patrick Murphy also scored his first career goal in that match and Mathias Ebbesen had goals against George Mason and Lehigh.
“Scoring my first goal was a pretty blurred moment,” said Murphy, who only scored once over five seasons playing for Philadelphia Union Academy teams. “Even watching the film it looked like it happened in slow motion.”
One of the vocal leaders on the team as a sophomore, Murphy said the experience of players coming back from last season and the new additions have given the team a fresh mindset.
“The players we’ve brought in have really lifted the team,” Murphy said.
Wins, of course, help that.
For stretches of the game on Monday night at Rhodes Field, it looked like the Dragons might grab another victory against their closest and fiercest rivals but timely goalkeeping for both teams kept the match a scoreless draw through 110 minutes on a steamy night in the city.
Mathias Ebbesen had a chance denied in the first half and Stephen Kopsachilis came up big on a restart in the second half with a quick reaction save to deny Penn. The redshirt freshman has conceded just once in three starts and was recognized as the Philly Soccer Six rookie and defender of the week.
As any team on a winning streak will tell you, bounces have definitely gone Drexel’s way. But they’ve also run into some hard luck, losing standout sophomore midfielder Neil Boyal, a Seattle Sounders Academy grad, to injury in the first game. He was walking in a boot Monday night.
“Adam Nork stepped right in and played in that role,” Hess said of Boyal’s injury. “He’s really taken ownership of that position.”
The Dragons host another unbeaten team in NJIT (3-0-0) back at home on Saturday night before beginning Colonial Athletic Association play against James Madison a week later.
In other local college soccer action:
-Villanova suffered their first loss in front of 2,137 fans at Historic Riggs Field on Monday night at Clemson to fall to 3-1-0 after posting another thrilling overtime victory on Friday over Loyola Maryland.
-Temple won its first game of the season and first with Brian Rowland at the helm in thrilling fashion with a 64th minute goal from Zach Brown. Michael Samnik made four saves to post the clean sheet and the Owls improved to 1-2-0 on the season after dropping a 1-0 decision to VCU decided by a penalty kick.
-La Salle posted 2-1 wins in its first two games of the season with a win at home over Howard on Tuesday and a road win at Iona on Saturday. Soji Olatoye and Jesper Lenander had the game-winners and Pat McCarthy and Daniel Begovic also posted goals.
-Saint Joseph’s outscored opponents 7-3 in a pair of wins to improve to 2-1-0 on the season. Freshmen Garrett Lyons and Frantz Pierrot both opened their college accounts in the win over Saint Peter’s while Leon Maric scored his first goal for the Hawks and Alvin Dahn and a pair of goals and an assist in the win over Quinnipiac. Alan Kahlenbeck and Derek MacKinnon also scored in Saturday night’s win.