As the Drexel women’s basketball season comes to a close, so do the collegiate careers of four seniors: Kamile Nacickaite, Tyler Hale, Marisa Crane and Ayana Lee. Over the course of their tenure at Drexel, these four talented women made their mark on the court.
Starting with the dominating guard, Nacickaite has earned her fair share of accolades as a Dragon. She made her first career start against the University of Richmond Dec. 22, 2008, and scored 14 points in the game. The rest, as they say, is history. During her first year she led her fellow freshmen in scoring and led the entire team in three-pointers with 35 for the season. She also earned the title of Colonial Athletic Association Co-Rookie of the Week Jan. 4, 2009.
“The best experience would be as a freshman, coming in and winning a championship,” Nacickaite commented. “I think all of us as freshmen contributed to that championship and added something. For me, missing the first part of the season and coming back and being able to score and add something off the bench at the end was a great experience.”
As a sophomore, Nacickaite continued her impressive play by starting in 28 games and was the team’s second leading scorer at 11.6 points per game. She was named to PhillyCollegeSports.com’s All-Women’s Division I team, which could have been attributed to her 134 rebounds and No. 6 ranking in the CAA for three-pointers that season.
She played in all 32 games for Drexel in her junior year and started in all but one. She was named to PhillyCollegeSports.com’s All-Women’s Division I once again and was also named a Second Team All-CAA player. After scoring 20 points against Tulsa University and 24 points against University of Virginia, Nacickaite earned herself the title of Player of the Week Dec. 6, 2010.
After an impressive three years it was only suiting that her fourth and final year was equally, if not more, remarkable than the rest. She led the team in rebounds with an average of 5.8 per game and led the Dragons in scoring in each of the final three games, helping her team earn the No. 3 seed in the CAA Tournament.
Most impressively, she bumped herself to fourth place for all-time scoring at Drexel with 1,574 career points. She was also named CAA Co-Player of the Week, sharing the title with University of Delaware standout Elena Della Donne.
As Nacickaite commented, she couldn’t have had such success without her star roster of coaches.
“I’m so happy I came to Drexel because of these coaches,” Nacickaite said. “They’ve helped me get better since I got here. I was a little stubborn as a player when I got to Drexel, and they taught me a lot. They’ve helped me get to where I am right now.”
The coaches also had a strong impression on the career of Hale.
Hale kicked off her career by playing in 26 games and making two starts as a freshman, her first being against the University of Pennsylvania Dec. 19, 2008. She concluded her season ranked third on the team for rebounding and played a season-high 26 minutes against James Madison University in the CAA Championship game.
She played in all 31 games her sophomore season, making 28 starting appearances throughout the year. Along with her impressive stats on the court, such as her 52 offensive boards and 125 steals and rebounds, she also earned the high honors of the team’s Spirit-Leadership Award as well as CAA All-Academic Honorable Mention.
As a junior, she made 27 appearances and earned the Dragons’ Defensive Player Award. Her accolades were well deserved, seeing as she led the team with a .477 shooting percentage and managed to finish the season with 51 offensive rebounds.
This year, Hale earned the title of Athlete of the Week by putting up 18 points against The College of William & Mary Feb. 12.
All of these accolades wouldn’t be nearly as sweet if the women’s roster weren’t so supportive of one another.
“We always play for each other out on the court,” Nacickaite commented. “I will miss this whole family, especially my teammates and my coaching staff.”
Another member of the Dragons who made a strong impact was Crane, who has proven time and again that she is a strong and powerful asset to the roster. She came onto the team her freshman year with guns blazing — she was the only freshman to play in all 33 games and averaged just over 16 minutes per game as the backup guard. She finished the season ranked fifth on the team in assists and steals.
As a sophomore she kept the momentum rolling, earning the title of CAA All-Academic First Team by leading the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.7, among other things. She played in 31 games, making 30 starts, and led the entire CAA in minutes played with an average of 38.1. She also finished the season with 134 assists, which was the most amount of assists for a Drexel player since the 1989-90 season.
Unfortunately, Crane was only able to play 11 games in her junior year due to an injury. Even so, she was named to the CAA All-Academic First Team once again.
Lee had court time in 20 games her freshman year. She recorded her first career blocked shot during the Dragons’ competition against the Blue Hens Feb. 19, 2009. From that point on, Lee kept improving her skills and stats throughout the seasons.
She again played in 20 games her sophomore year despite suffering from a midseason ankle injury. During the season she earned a then-career high of six points against Penn Nov. 15, 2009, and also improved her totals in steals, rebounds and assists.
Lee really began to flourish in her junior year, playing in 31 of the team’s 32 games and starting in nine of them. She improved her career-high scoring mark to eight and finished third on the team for shooting percentage with .438. Even more impressively, she earned the title of Most Improved Player at the Dragons’ end-of-the-year banquet.
The key to consistent success? Mindset.
“Just be confident,” Nacickaite said. “Once you are confident, the coaches can see that, and they will trust you to be the one to make the big plays.”
Unfortunately, the women’s postseason quest for an NCAA bid ended on a sour note as they fell to the Blue Hens 43-59 in the finals of the CAA Tournament.
With that said, they still have a chance for postseason success. The women will take on Fairfield University in the first round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
Regardless of the outcome of the WNIT, these four seniors have made their mark as Dragons and will greatly be missed.