Nov. 20, 2009

DES MOINES, IOWA - Senior Garrett Webb's (Prairie Village, Kan./Shawnee Mission East) game-winning tally at the 7:44 mark lifted the 24th-rated Drake men's soccer team to its first-ever NCAA Tournament win with a 2-1 triumph over Western Illinois on Thursday (Nov. 19) at the Cownie Soccer Complex.

The win established a new school record for victories for Drake and improved the Bulldogs to 14-6-2, while the Leathernecks saw their record-breaking campaign end at 8-10-2.

Drake made its defining statement coming out of the gate in its first-ever home tournament contest as senior Brian Wurst (Kansas City, Mo./Park Hill South) needled a pass through the box that a diving senior Kevin Shrout (Lee's Summit, Mo./Lee's Summit) headed into the net to beat Western Illinois goalkeeper Stephen Paterson to the lower right corner for his fourth goal of the year at the 3:31 mark.

Scoring what proved to be the game-winning tally in the eighth minute (7:44) was Webb, who leaped high above the Leatherneck defense to win a serve from junior Nick Foster (West Des Moines, Iowa/Valley) and earn his team- and conference-best 12 goal on the year with a header to give Drake a 2-0 lead.

The Bulldogs had scored on their first two shots of the contest but Western Illinois cultivated its own scoring opportunities as Drake held a slim 9-8 advantage in shots in the first half.

Controlling tempo in the final 45 minutes was the Bulldogs' mission was and it held serve until they were whistled for a foul in the box that set up a Husref Jupic, a Des Moines, Iowa, native, for a penalty kick at the 78:15 mark. Jupic converted and cut the margin to 2-1.

Despite Western Illinois making the game tighter than Drake had hoped with its play over the final 12 minutes, the Bulldogs held on for the victory.

"That was probably the most exciting moment in Drake soccer history really surpassed what even happened on Sunday, Drake head coach Sean Holmes commented. "I think to host an NCAA Tournament game, to win it, to play well, to have a great crowd and the weather we had was tremendous."

"I really thought that Drake brought a high level of energy in the first 10 to 15 minutes of the game," Western Illinois head coach Dr. Eric Johnson commented. "To go down two goals was really difficult, but we fought back and got a goal. The goal really gives you a shot of energy and down at the end we really thought we might get one again."

Drake garnered an 18-16 margin in shots led by a game-high six shots from Shrout. Jupic and Kevin Hinds paced the Leathernecks with three shots apiece. The Bulldogs also received three, two, two and two shots, respectively, from Webb, Wurst, senior Luke Gorczyca (Overland Park, Kan./St. Thomas Aquinas) and junior Matt Kuhn (Raytown, Mo./Raytown South).

Paterson pulled in four saves for Western Illinois, while his counterpart redshirt junior Michael Drozd (Harwood Heights, Ill./Loyola Academy) registered two saves for the Bulldogs.

"I thought to come out of the gates so fast is quite unusual for our team," said Holmes. "At one point I thought we could have made it 6-0, but we gave up a silly penalty and a little lack of discipline at the end we turned the game into a much more of a shambolic free-for-all in the last 10 minutes."

The victory was highlighted by the play of Drake's seniors who elevated the Bulldogs to new heights over the past four seasons, including their second triumph of the season over Western Illinois. The Bulldogs had posted a 1-0 road win in Macomb, Ill., on Oct. 7.

"I've been harping on senior leadership all year almost to the point of adnauseam but at the key moments upperclassmen stepped up and we're just so tremendous," Holmes stated. "Kevin (Shrout) and Luke (Gorczyca) just owned the midfield again, our back four were tidy and Mike (Drozd) has really emerged as a top-level goalkeeper. Garrett Webb is an absolute physical beast you have to contend with for 90 minutes so even whether he scores or adds an assist he creates attacking opportunities by virtue of his work and his balance and his ability to fight for the ball."

The seniors and the rest of the Bulldogs look to continue their season with their next challenge as Drake battles fourth-seeded and 13th-ranked Ohio State (12-4-4) on Sunday (Nov. 22). Game time at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, is slated for 12:00 p.m. CT.