When talking about former Drexel student-athlete Carol Hyun, long-time women’s basketball coach Lillian Haas said it best, “Carol Hyun was women’s athletics at Drexel for four years.”
From 1963 to 1967, Hyun played basketball, lacrosse and field hockey at the varsity level and earned a total of 12 letters in those sports. For her stellar performance during her senior year, Hyun was named Drexel University Athlete of the Year in 1967, no small feat for a female athlete at the time.
“It was an honor for me and other women athletes,” she recalled. “It was a complete surprise to me; I didn’t even find out until I opened the yearbook.”
Although the award may have been a surprise at the time, it seemed only inevitable for Hyun to win the award at some point in her college career. When she came to Drexel, Hyun was already an outstanding athlete. She was a three-sport star in high school and decided to bring her talents to West Philadelphia.
“I was looking at schools I could easily commute to from home,” Hyun explained. “My campus visit was a wonderfully friendly experience, and I was encouraged to continue to play sports at a collegiate level.”
As a medical technology major, Hyun fit right in at Drexel, which was known back then, as it is today, a professional, hands-on school. However, unlike college athletics today, athletes, especially female, were not recruited very highly out of high school.
“Recruitment of female athletes was basically nonexistent,” she noted. “There were no scholarships for athletes; we just came out to play because we loved the sport.”
Hyun began her athletic career at Drexel in fall of her freshman year on the field hockey team. She was a starting defender on the team for all four years, including honorable mention All-College in her sophomore and junior seasons.
Seeing obvious athletic ability and potential, Hyun’s coaches encouraged her to play sports in other seasons, which ended up being basketball in the winter and lacrosse in the spring.
“I was definitely best at lacrosse, but it may have been because there were few female athletes with as much experience,” she admitted. “Even though the coaches had to take a group of athletes and create a lacrosse team, we competed very well with other teams on our level.”
Hyun led the lacrosse team in scoring in her sophomore and junior years and led the team to an outstanding 6-1-1 record in 1965, which included a tie against the highly ranked University of Pennsylvania.
“I never cared much about statistics,” Hyun confessed. “I was more interested in team records, and it was great to have such success on the field.”
Even though her field hockey and lacrosse careers were nothing short of spectacular, Hyun’s major impact was on the basketball court. In the 1964-65 season, the women’s basketball team finished with a 5-2 record, and Hyun, as a sophomore, led the team in scoring with 16 points per game.
Before she began her third season, Hyun was named captain of the basketball team, the lacrosse team and the field hockey team by her coaches and teammates.
“As team captain, you are recognized by your teammates for being a leader,” she said. “I was not a vocal leader as much as I led by example; I loved to play, and I always worked hard.”
It was an honor Hyun took very seriously and with a lot of humility. It may seem difficult to balance the captaincies of three different teams in three different sports during three different seasons, but Hyun was up to the challenge.
“Captain duties were pretty much the same because a lot of the same women played the same sports,” she explained. “Basketball was the sport I loved the most, so maybe being team captain for coach Haas meant a little more.”
Lillian Haas was head women’s basketball coach at Drexel from 1963 to 1992, almost thirty years. Haas stands as the winningest coach in Drexel women’s basketball history with a record of 264-178, but she meant more to her players than just her win-loss record.
“I improved the most in basketball during my time at Drexel,” Hyun recalled. “Coach Haas had a lot to do with this; she spent a lot of quality time with us, and we were not only coached as a team but coached as individuals.”
Hyun left her true mark on Drexel athletics in her final two seasons under Haas. In the 1965-66 season, the women’s basketball team went undefeated, the first undefeated season in Drexel history. The team went 7-0 and outscored its opposition 380-176 that season, and Hyun averaged 16.7 points per game.
“This was a very special group of women,” she said. “We practiced and played very hard every single time on the court.”
Drexel followed up its first undefeated season with another the following season. During her senior year, Hyun was in the top 10 in scoring average and posted a career high of 32 points. The team went 8-0 and outscored its opponents by 32 points per game.
“I distinctly remember the two seasons we were undefeated in basketball,” Hyun reminisced. “We had a magical connection with each other both on and off the court; we truly cared for each other.”
Hyun graduated in 1967 and has continued playing sports for a number of years. She played club basketball, lacrosse, field hockey and even soccer. While raising her two sons, she was able to coach their teams and youth programs.
In 1981, Hyun was named to the Drexel Athletics Hall of Fame for her outstanding contributions to the three sports she played in college. Additionally, she was recognized in 2000 as one of 20 female basketball players on the All-Millennium Team.
“It was truly an honor to be recognized by Drexel,” Hyun explained. “It meant a lot to be able to share these awards with my two sons and my husband, who didn’t know me in college.”
Hyun is amazed at how far women’s athletics has come along since she played at Drexel. She expressed this especially about the women’s basketball team, which Haas continued to build, long after Hyun had graduated.
“I have loved watching women’s sports evolve,” she said. “I sometimes wonder what I would have done, having to specialize in just one sport. It was amazing to watch Coach Haas continue being so effective as her career went on, especially with all of the changes happening in women’s basketball.”
Today, Hyun is retired but continues to work out and attend many sporting events. She has just begun a new career working in early-childhood special education.
“I can’t picture truly being retired,” Hyun confessed. “I love working with these children; it’s truly a dream job.”
Looking back now, Hyun can appreciate not only what she did for women’s athletics at Drexel but also the great times and lasting experiences she had along the way.
To all current student-athletes, Hyun had some final words of wisdom:
“Play the sport because you love it. Cherish these days because they will be special memories forever.”