Entering the break, the Drexel University women’s basketball team had much to be thankful for. After an opening loss to the Pennsylvania State University Lady Lions, the Dragons capitalized on their opportunities to bounce back and get their season off to a positive start.
Their first opportunity came against in-town rival LaSalle University during the Nov. 16 home opener at the Daskalakis Athletic Center. Despite the fact that these teams had not faced off in the past three years, the rich history between the two programs added some extra energy into this matchup, and the Dragons absolutely responded. After a slow start, Drexel surged in the second half to earn a resounding win against the Explorers thanks to strong contributions from all over the roster. Five different players reached double digits in the score column, a feat that had not been achieved for Drexel since 2014. Unselfish play was the catalyst for such a performance. The 25 assists from Drexel enabled the home team to outshoot LaSalle from the three-point line and from the field. And as can often be the case for winning basketball teams, Denise Dillon’s group used their defense to setup easy offense to the tune of 41 points off turnovers. When the dust settled, Drexel walked away with their first win and it was a resounding one: 79-54 for Drexel.
Much of the same story prevailed in Drexel’s next matchup Nov. 18 when they faced the highly touted Bison of Bucknell University. The Dragons came out of the gate slow once again, failing to score a single field goal for the first eight minutes of the ball game and leading some to flash back to a loss endured last season. But with a sharp-shooting second quarter, Drexel turned an 11-3 deficit into a 26-24 lead at half. A compelling second half ensued, once again highlighted by a tenacious Drexel defense that refused to allow the Bison to get comfortable in this one. They managed to force 27 turnovers on the evening, sparking an 11-0 run in the third that pushed a close game into a double-digit lead for the Dragons. And while this effort and intensity was very much a part of the storyline in the Drexel successes of last season, this one has featured the emergence of a new closer. Late in the fourth quarter, despite being hindered by foul trouble for much of the afternoon, sophomore Bailey Greenberg stepped up when her team needed her most. She netted seven of her nine points in the final frame, included a dagger three and jumper to send Bucknell home with a 63-54 loss.
And so, Drexel traveled to Melbourne, Florida, for their Thanksgiving tournament riding high with their impressive 2-1 record. This momentum did not prove to be enough to overcome the talent that they would come across in the stacked field of the Paradise Jam bracket. Their first opponent was the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. A late first half run put the Hokies firmly on top going into into the break, but Drexel’s offense came out firing in the third. Greenberg once again shone in this one en route to a new career high of 16 points, but a swarming defense by Virginia Tech eventually wore down the Dragons, who fought but ultimately faded down the stretch and were forced to watch Virginia Tech free throw shooting end hopes of a third straight victory. After this loss, Drexel hoped to shock the world for a second straight year when they faced the No. 11-ranked team in the country, the West Virginia University Mountaineers. This time around, however, the Dragons simply ran into a buzzsaw. They were thoroughly suffocated on the offensive end and despite an admirable effort were unable to slow down the attack of the superior West Virginia side. A 75-42 loss ensued.
But the Drexel side was quick to put their losses behind them and shifted their focus to the tournament finale, a contest against the Butler University Bulldogs. Despite early season successes, coach Denise Dillon has continued to tinker with her rotation, this time evidenced through the insertion of senior guard Megan Marecic into the starting lineup. Dillon has been pressing the right buttons this season, and this move was no different as her team responded with perhaps their best team performance to date. Once again, the attack was balanced, with five players again scoring in double figures. And while they were outscored in the paint, the Dragons leaned on their defense and the 19 points gained on turnovers to put the Bulldogs away late. This strong bounceback performance, a quality indicative of a good team, culminated in a convincing 76-62 victory in the first ever meeting of the two sides.
They will look to continue their impressive season start in a home game against Lafayette College Dec. 1.