Entering the 2017-18 season, the Drexel University women’s basketball team has much to look forward to. Last year featured an impressive 22-11 record culminating in a third place finish in the Colonial Athletic Association. It also featured the emergence of perhaps the future face of the program. This led to an appearance in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament after making a run to the semifinal matchup in the conference tournament.
However, for all the successes of the 2016 iteration of the women’s basketball program, all that is in the past now. With three starters lost to graduation, head coach Denise Dillon’s ability to develop her young talent will likely be the difference between having another successful year or taking a step back.
Luckily for her, last year’s season also featured the emergence of the likely new face of her program. Bailey Greenberg’s rookie campaign was one of the best enjoyed by a Dragon in recent memory. A fixture in the starting lineup, Greenberg netted the third-most points in a season by a freshman on a Dillon-led team. Over the course of the year, she also garnered three CAA Rookie of the Week awards and ultimately a spot on the conference all-rookie team. Coming into this season a preseason All-CAA honorable mention team member, Greenberg’s growth will be key if Drexel hopes to make a run at a CAA title once again.
This quest began with a trip to Happy Valley, Pennsylvania to take on the Lady Lions of Pennsylvania State University. In this matchup, it was Greenberg’s past teammate from Archbishop Wood High School, Aubree Brown, who paced the Drexel side as they fought to pull off an underdog victory. For the first seven minutes of the outing, the Dragons kept it close, pulling to within one on a Brown free throw.
After a flurry of substitutions, the Lady Lions made their run, rolling off 13 unanswered to end the first period. Drexel was unable to cut it to single digits for the rest of the half, despite a trio of three pointers poured in by forward Eline Maesschalck. Drexel’s turnovers were critical, resulting in 15 points cashed in by Penn State.
The Lady Lions continued to jump all over the Dragons after halftime, reeling off a barrage of layups and three-pointers that stretched the lead to a formidable 21 points with 4:15 remaining in the third quarter. With that, a much more active Greenberg attempted to take over, and sparked by her energy, Drexel began to piece together a run of their own as the game headed down the stretch. Back to back three-pointers by Brown and Greenberg, followed by a layup by Mariah Leonard swung the momentum in the Dragons’ favor, a fact hammered home when a pair of Brown free throws at the 4:28 mark in the fourth cut the deficit to single digits.
Unfortunately, Drexel simply didn’t have enough offense to overcome such a large deficit accumulated in the first half. For over two minutes in crunch time, Drexel failed to beat the Penn State defense, so when a dagger three by Kamaria McDaniel stretched the lead to 12 with 1:26 remaining, the outcome was no longer in doubt.
That said, the heart shown throughout the comeback was impressive and should inspire optimism among the Dragon faithful. Brown set a career high with 16 on the day, while Maesschalck with 12 and Greenberg with 11 also joined her in double figures. Drexel opened their home schedule with an enticing matchup against Philadelphia rival LaSalle University Nov. 16.