Drexel women get a real chance at CAA title

Drexel Head Women's Basketball Coach Denise Dillon celebrates with her niece Julia Healey after Drexel defeated Utah 46-43 in the championship game of the WNIT on April 6, 2013.
Drexel Head Women's Basketball Coach Denise Dillon celebrates with her niece Julia Healey after Drexel defeated Utah 46-43 in the championship game of the WNIT on April 6, 2013.
Posted: November 06, 2013

After playing all season in the shadow of Delaware and Elena Delle Donne in the Colonial Athletic Association, the Drexel women's basketball team put its own stamp on March Madness by winning the WNIT, akin to the NIT on the men's side.

Now Delle Donne has gone on to superstar stature in the WNBA, leaving the Dragons to enjoy the sunlight much easier even though they have had their own key graduation loss in Hollie Mershon.

Nevertheless, Drexel was picked second behind James Madison in the CAA preseason coaches' poll. Coach Denise Dillon's team has the potential to be the top team in the city.

Furthermore Dillon has been mining recruits out of Archbishop Carroll the way baseball's New York Yankees used to treat Kansas City through trades, like the franchise was a minor-league affiliate.

This year, the Carroll alums on Drexel - sophomores Rachel Pearson and Meghan Creighton - will be joined by freshman Sarah Curran, a 5-foot-11 forward.

Drexel's nonconference slate continues to be ambitious with visits to Maryland and St. Joseph's, a potential matchup with Dillon's alma mater Villanova in Toledo's tournament, a visit from perennial Ivy favorite Princeton, and the annual neighborhood war with Penn.

Gone but not really

With Villanova part of the new Big East, the Wildcats will still see favorite DePaul, Seton Hall, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, and Georgetown. Missing from the slate are such past stalwarts as defending NCAA champion and preseason favorite Connecticut, Rutgers, NCAA runner-up Louisville, South Florida, Notre Dame, and Syracuse.

Those opponents are still around. Most will play Temple home-and-home in the new American Athletic Conference, while Notre Dame, ranked sixth in the AP preseason poll and in the Atlantic Coast Conference, will visit Penn.

"I wasn't going to give up my homecoming visits to Philadelphia," said Irish coach Muffet McGraw, a Big Five Hall of Famer out of St. Joseph's. "But I wasn't going to be calling 'Nova to play nonconference, either."

Local talent

Penn State and Rutgers have key roster members from this area. Narberth's Maggie Lucas, now a Penn State senior and reigning Big Ten player of the year, was picked as the league's preseason star, while coach Coquese Washington's squad was picked second. Talia East is from Friends Central and Dara Taylor is from Wilmington. Though much younger this time, Penn State has one of the top freshmen classes in the country.

Rutgers, meanwhile, has sophomore Kahleah Copper from Prep Charter, and Betnijah Laney is from Clayton, Del., and her mother, Yolanda, was a top star at University City who played for Scarlet Knights coach C. Vivian Stringer at Cheyney. Freshman Tyler Scaife, meanwhile, is from Little Rock, Ark., and is one of the top freshmen in the nation.

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