They still have nearly six months until they don their game jerseys again and zip the ball through the air, but the Drexel women’s lacrosse team is excited — very excited — for the 2014 season. Last week’s big announcement that Hannah Rudloff would be the Dragons’ next head coach contributes to a greater anticipation.
In terms of distance, Rudloff hasn’t traveled far, and she hasn’t had to. Graduating magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 2009 with degrees in communication and anthropology, she also played lacrosse for the Quakers and reached three NCAA semifinals, including one NCAA championship.
Building off an impressive college career, success has been the name of the game at all of Rudloff’s stops. In 2010, while serving as an assistant at Marist College, Rudloff helped lead the Red Foxes to a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title and a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Then, in 2011, Rudloff returned to University City on the opposite side of 34th Street as an assistant coach at Drexel. Prior to her arrival, the Dragons had never reached the CAA Tournament. Over the past three years, the Dragons have reached the CAA Tournament every season.
“I know myself, and all of the girls are really proud of the fact that we made the CAA Tournament the past three years and just really raised our competitiveness level across the board,” Rudloff said.
Anna Marie Vesco, who had been with the program since 2003, was the head coach for the three CAA Tournament runs. The University did not renew her contract this offseason, according to a statement from the athletic department. Rudloff had served as the interim head coach for two months before being named to the position full-time beginning Aug. 1.
In terms of her career, it’s a road that she has navigated quite well at high speed. Only a handful of years removed from her own playing days, Rudloff has become one of the youngest coaches at the Division I level. Her youth, she says, is one of the big advantages that she brings to the Vidas Field sidelines.
“Every year we have rule changes and dramatic shifts in how the game is played,” Rudloff explained. “I think that gives younger coaches the advantage, quite frankly. No one in the game can say, ‘I’ve been in the game for 30 years, and this is how I do it.’”
Along with her youth, Rudloff also cites her Ivy League pedigree as a strength when the team steps off the field.
“Drexel’s a very challenging academic school, and coming from Penn, I had a very similar experience in terms of the time commitment and having to balance that with your athletic commitments,” Rudloff said. “I think that’s where we can have a lot of frank conversations and make them feel comfortable coming to me with their struggles that pertain to both academics and lacrosse.”
Although she has only been on the job for a little more than a week, Rudloff is already feeling the bond with her players. Just as Rudloff makes the players feel at home with her relatable age, the players have made her feel at home as the team’s head coach by sharing in a mutual anticipation for the upcoming season.
“The girls have already come in and said, ‘Hey Coach, we know you’re going to push us really hard and we know it’s going to change a lot, but we’re ready,’” Rudloff said. “So I’m looking forward to challenging them and seeing how ready they are.”
The biggest test for Rudloff and the Dragons will be a tough team from Towson University. For the past three seasons, Drexel and Towson have met in the CAA Tournament, and for the past three seasons, Towson has pulled out a one-goal victory en route to three straight CAA titles. Rudloff says that the sting of those losses is all the motivation the team needs.
For now, though, six months away from the first game of the season, the Dragons remain excited — excited by the momentum that comes with the best three-year stretch in Drexel women’s lacrosse’s history and by the youthful invigoration of a newly named head coach with a successful past that is trending upward.
Rudloff is just as excited as her players are. With a team that is poised for a breakthrough and maybe its first-ever NCAA Tournament berth, the young coach is ready to lead the Dragons into a bigger, brighter future.
“I’m excited every year, whether I’m an assistant or a head coach,” she said. “I just really [want to] put my stamp on what we’ve already done.”