Coming off a close defeat in the Colonial Athletic Association Championship Game to the University of Delaware, the Drexel Dragons headed into postseason play with high hopes that that loss wouldn’t define their season. As a result, head coach Denise Dillon and her team put together a string of wins that led them to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament Final.The road to the WNIT Final Four involved a pair of home wins, first a 59-50 decision against Iona University and then an 82-72 triumph over Harvard University. Following those victories the Dragons went on the road to Bowling Green State University and Auburn University. The Dragons pulled out a narrow 50-47 victory against Bowling Green in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, the Dragons defeated Auburn 56-43 to return home for the WNIT Final Four.
In front of a packed Daskalakis Athletic Center crowd, the Dragons defeated the University of Florida April 3 to reach the WNIT Championship Game. It was the type of game that Dillon has imagined her team playing all season long. The Dragons had a strong defense that forced bad shots and turnovers, supporting role players who have continued to step up and score crucial points for the team, and finally a special player in senior Hollie Mershon, who has refused to lose in the last games of her career.
Mershon, as she has done all season, led the Dragons against Delaware with 28 points and 10 assists in the CAA Tournament Final. Her relentless play both on the offensive and defensive end willed the Dragons to their fifth consecutive victory in the WNIT in the game against Florida.
“Hollie Mershon is a special player, and she had an outstanding game,” Florida head coach Amanda Butler said.
Along with Mershon’s stellar performance, fellow senior Taylor Wootton and junior Fiona Flanagan had impactful performances against the Gators. Wootton had continued her streak of scoring in double figures for the ninth consecutive game by scoring 16 points. Flanagan, whose three-pointer early in the game gave the Dragons a 9-6 lead they would not relinquish, finished with 11 points. The defense, which is ranked in the top 10 in the NCAA, forced 15 turnovers and six steals. The Dragons defense held a Florida team that had been averaging over 70 points in the WNIT to only 57 points.
Dillon believed the days off truly helped prepare her team for the challenges they would face against Florida.
“Well, I think the few days of preparation helps. We set the tempo and we didn’t allow them to get easy looks, and we talked about having all players want the ball and shoot the ball,” Dillon said.
The Dragons are doing something no Drexel team has ever done before by not only winning games in the WNIT but also defeating two Southeastern Conference opponents in Auburn and Florida for the first time in school history.
“I think we have a special team in general. Not only do we get along on the court but off the court as well,” Mershon said of her team.
Every victory adds to the incredible journey that the Drexel women’s basketball team is on. Every player on this team is contributing to this memorable run for the Dragons. Leading the way is Mershon, who played 39 minutes of the 40-minute contest. Her grit and determination have led the Dragons to heights they have never reached before. Only one more contest remains for her team to leave a legacy that no team has done before. On Saturday, April 6, at 3 p.m. against the University of Utah at the DAC, Mershon and her fellow seniors will look to cement their legacy by winning the WNIT Championship.