WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – Thursday, July 16, 2009—What is there to do for a Drake men’s soccer player spending the summer in Des Moines? Well, taking classes, working an internship and relaxing by the pool are a few options. For Drake and Des Moines Menace players Julien Edwards, Nick Foster, Hunter Kennedy and Garrett Webb, other pastimes include scoring game-winning goals, claiming a division title and making it to the Premier Development League playoffs.
The quartet of Drake players has proven to be a valuable asset for the 9-1-4 Menace since the first game of the season, when Edwards, Foster and Kennedy, along with Drake teammates Thomas Ostrander and Michael Thaden, joined the rest of the Menace to defeat the Rochester Thunder 2-1 in its Heartland Division opener.
Ostrander scored the May 16 game-winner against the Real Colorado Foxes before leaving the team, along with injured Thaden, after the St. Louis Lions game on May 23rd. Two weeks later, Des Moines gained Webb and goalkeeper Jordan Kadlec, once again maxing out the number of Drake players allowed to play based on a United Soccer Leagues rule that states a team can only have five players from one college on its active roster.
“I was in Des Moines taking classes, saw an opportunity to play when a few Menace players got hurt, and took it,” said Webb, who contacted Menace head coach Casey Mann the week before the team traveled to Thunder Bay, Canada. “I came out to a few practices and then Casey asked me to make the Thunder Bay trip.”
Webb made his presence known, scoring the Menace’s first goal in his second game with the team — a 3-1 road win against the defending PDL champions, the Chill, on June 13. The 2008 NSCAA/Adidas All-Midwest Region first-teamer followed that goal with the game-winning finish in the 85th minute at Rochester on June 28.
Ten days later, it was Kennedy’s turn to put the game winner in the back of the net against the same team on the same field, this time in the 86th minute.
“It felt really good to score,” said Kennedy. “It was a big game and I was in the right place at the right time.”
In last Saturday’s match against the Springfield Demize at Valley Stadium, the Bulldog representatives showcased the talent that took them to Drake’s first NCAA tournament appearance in school history. Webb and Edwards capitalized on corner kicks in the 50th and 84th minutes, and Kennedy followed up by placing one in during the 87th minute.
The 4-0 victory secured the Menace’s ninth playoff berth in the franchise’s 16-year history and clinched at least a share of the team’s second division title.
The Menace has one regular-season home game left before heading into the playoffs. This Saturday’s game on Drake Night is set to start at 7:30 p.m. at Valley Stadium in West Des Moines. Fans that wear Drake apparel or show their Drake ID will receive $5 admission.
Playoffs are a stressful and exciting time, as Drake knows first-hand. It starts with being one of the few teams to reach the post-season. When the Drake men’s team heard the news of receiving a tournament bid, team members were camped out in Drake head coach Sean Holmes’ office.
“It was nuts,” said Foster. “We heard it on the radio when we were in coach’s office and we all just went crazy.”
Unfortunately, Drake’s first NCAA Tournament appearance was short-lived, as the Bulldogs suffered a heart-breaking loss during a shoot-out against Saint Louis in the first round.
The quick exit did nothing to damper Drake’s record season of 13-5-1. The Bulldogs are looking ahead to next season where they will return 10 starters and 16 letter winners.
“We know the task at hand,” said Edwards. “We are more experienced and more confident going into the season, but we are also humble.”
The Bulldogs are going into the season with another team first, a preseason ranking. Drake is ranked at No. 21 in the College Soccer News Preseason Top-30 Poll and ready to get things rolling.
“Preseason is always the best time of year,” said Foster. “You don’t have classes and get to hang out with your friends and play.”
Before they head off for preseason the second week in August, they still have a PDL championship to win.
The Menace can host the first round of the playoffs if the team collects one more point in its final two matches. Tonight the team plays its last road game against a Kansas City Brass team that features Drake teammates Calvin Clark, Luke Gorczyca, Matt Kuhn, Kevin Shrout, and Brian Wurst. In their previous meetings, Des Moines tied the Brass 1-1 on June 4 at William Jewel College and won 4-0 on June 20 at Valley Stadium.
“The Menace’s post-season is going to give all of us more opportunities and open doors,” said Edwards. According to Edwards, the most important thing for the team is depth, of which the Menace has plenty.
“We have proven that we have depth,” said Foster. “What we need is to raise the intensity at practice all the way through the team so that those players who get the minutes are prepared.”
Another positive factor for the Menace is their team chemistry which is strong even with players coming and going. “We are all soccer players playing for a team,” said Webb. “The Menace has a good group of guys who accept us and include us even though we don’t live at the apartments.”
They won’t have to wait long to play on the same field as their Menace teammates again. On Aug. 27 Drake travels to Fort Wayne, Ind., to open the season against Menace teammate Cameron Jordan and the Indiana Hoosiers before taking the new field at Cownie Sports Complex for their first home game on Sept. 1 against DePaul University.
Drake will also play Western Illinois (Darryl Odom) on Oct. 7 in Macomb, Ill.; Eastern Illinois (Sean Molony and Ryan Child) on Oct. 21 at Cownie and Nov. 4 in Charleston, Ill.; and Creighton University (Tucker Sindlinger) on Oct. 14 in Omaha, Neb. and on Nov. 7 at Cownie.
“It will be an exciting season,” said Webb. “So come check us out.”
DRAKE PLAYERS WITH THE 2009 MENACE:
JULIEN EDWARDS, senior defender from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
With the 2009 Menace: Has played and started nine games for 810 minutes…has two points from one goal in the Springfield Demize game on July 11…part of a defense that has totaled five shutouts and allowed only four goals at home.
Drake 2008 Highlights: Selected to the NSCAA/Adidas All-Midwest Region third team and the Missouri Valley All-Conference first team...earned Brine/MVC Defensive Player of the Week Nov. 10 following wins against Wisconsin and Evansville... named the Brine/MVC Defensive Player of the Week Sept. 15 after leading team to its fifth and sixth straight shutout victories...earned Drake Classic All-Tournament honors and Missouri State Comfort Inn/Diadora All-Tournament honors.
NICK FOSTER, junior defender from West Des Moines, Iowa (Valley)
With the 2009 Menace: Played 299 minutes in six games…started three games…tallied three shots…played for Menace’s Super 20s in 2008.
Drake 2008 Highlights: Named to the Missouri Valley Conference Men's Soccer Scholar-Athlete honorable mention team...selected to the Missouri Valley All-Conference honorable mention team... named to Missouri Valley Conference All-Freshman team in 2007.
JORDAN KADLEC, sophomore goalkeeper from Hiawatha, Iowa (Cedar Rapids Kennedy)
With the 2009 Menace: Joined Menace’s active roster mid-June…has not seen any action in 2009…played for Menace’s Super 20s in 2008.
Drake 2008 Highlights: Played in two games, starting in one...joined the Bulldogs after redshirting his freshman year at Louisville.
HUNTER KENNEDY, sophomore forward from Cedar Rapids, Iowa (Cedar Rapids Washington)
With the 2009 Menace: Played 117 minutes in five games…started one game…tallied four points from two goals…scored in game-winning goal in the 86th minute against the Rochester Thunder on July 8…followed it up with a goal on his 20th birthday on July 11 in a 4-0 victory against the Springfield Demize…played for the Menace’s Super 20s in 2008.
Drake 2008 Highlights: Selected to the Missouri Valley Conference All-Freshmen team...earned Drake Classic All-Tournament team honors after scoring two goals in the opening game...played in all 18 matches while starting in 12.
THOMAS OSTRANDER*, sophomore midfielder from Fort Dodge, Iowa (St. Edmond Catholic)
With the 2009 Menace: Has played 156 minutes in three games…started one game…recorded two points from the game-winning goal against Real Colorado on May 16.
Drake 2008 Highlights: Played in 18 games, starting two...had four points on one goal and two assists...scored game-winning goal against Centenary...two assists were in conference play in wins over Bradley and Evansville.
MICHAEL THADEN*, sophomore midfielder from West Des Moines, Iowa (Valley)
With the 2009 Menace: Has played 178 minutes in three games…started two games…tallied one shot.
Drake 2008 Highlights: Played in 12 games starting one with three shots.
GARRETT WEBB, senior forward from Prairie Village, Kan.
With the 2009 Menace: Has played and started in six games for 492 minutes…fifth on the team with six points from three goals…scored game-winner against Rochester in 85th minute on June 28.
Drake 2008 Highlights: Named to the NSCAA/Adidas All-Midwest Region first team...repeat selection to the Missouri Valley All-Conference first team... named to the College Soccer News and Soccer America Team of the Week as well as the Brine/Missouri Valley Conference Offensive Player of the Week on Nov. 10 after leading Drake to victories against Wisconsin (one assist) and Evansville (three goals)...named to the Missouri State Comfort Inn/Diadora All-Tournament team after scoring game winner against Centenary and a goal and assist in win over Cleveland State.
* No longer on the active roster