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On the Road with Women’s Basketball January 15, 2013

Posted by Sam Angell in Women's Basketball.
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Last Wednesday, the Drexel women’s basketball team hit the road for James Madison and their second Colonial Athletic Association game of the season. A long bus ride, the trip to JMU is usually an adventure in and of itself, but this time, Drexel was going to be spending the better part of a week on the road. By the time they got back, after over 20 hours on the bus, the Dragons were exhausted, thankful to be home, and had two more wins in their pockets after visiting JMU and UNC Wilmington.

Leaving after practice in mid-afternoon Wednesday, the Dragons sailed through Baltimore and only had minor issues getting around to the western side of the Washington beltway. Nevertheless, the bus did not pull into Harrisonburg until too late to make their scheduled stop at L’Italia restaurant, forcing the team to have the food delivered to the hotel. It was waiting for them when they arrived, and they ate and quickly went to bed in advance of their showdown with the Dukes on Thursday evening.

Along for the ride was Drexel Director of Compliance (and, as the coaching staff pointed out before and after the game, noted Good Luck Charm) Jamie Lindsay. Meanwhile, meeting the team in Harrisonburg was her former assistant, currently the Assistant Athletic Director at Youngstown State, Jesse Potter. A vocal and supportive presence in the stands during his three years at Drexel, Potter picked up right where he left off when Drexel took the court at the JMU Convocation Center on Thursday evening.

A normal day on the road for the Dragons consists of breakfast in the morning, usually around 9am, followed by shootaround at the opposing gym later in the morning. After fine tuning the plans for that night and running some basic drills, everyone on the team – everyone in the travel party, really – closes practice by attempting a halfcourt shot. This time, it was Associate Head Coach Amy Mallon who hit the shot, the first attempt of the day. It was a good thing hers went in, as no one else could do better than hit off the rim.

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After shootaround, the team returns to the hotel where the players get off their feet for a few hours. They reconvene four hours prior to gametime for the pregame meal, which almost inevitably consists of a chicken dish, pasta, salad and bread. Finally, the team departs for the game sometime between 2 hours and 90 minutes before gametime, depending on how far they have to go to get to the gym.

That night, Drexel got one of the most dramatic wins in program history, trailing nearly the entire game before Hollie Mershon hit two free throws with four seconds left to give the Dragons their first and only lead of the night, 48-46.

The locker room was jubilant, and Head Coach Denise Dillon’s press conference, also featuring Mershon, was light-hearted after the stunning victory. Drexel went back to the hotel in time for several team members to watch their new favorite show, Scandal on ABC.

The next morning, the Dragons woke up and said good bye to Lindsay and Potter, who were not going on Part Two of the journey with the team. Then, they went back to the arena for practice before hitting the road for a six-plus hour bus ride to Wilmington.

It was after 7:00 p.m. by the time the bus rolled into Wilmington, and the Dragons went straight for the home of Janet and Barry Burkholder, Drexel alums whose name now graces the Athletics Hall of Fame outside the main entrance of the DAC. There, the team enjoyed a great home-cooked meal courtesy of Mrs. Burkholder. After dinner, the team gathered in the Burkholders’ living room, where Mallon took her spot at the piano and the team – particularly Mershon and Abby Redick – made up lyrics to the songs she played and enjoyed their evening as a team.

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A day off in Wilmington on Saturday saw the team go to the beach for an extended lunch, followed by practice at UNCW’s Trask Coliseum. On Sunday, the Dragons got back to work on the court, holding off a pesky Seahawks team 64-51.

As the team gathered in the locker room postgame, Dillon told her team that she had good news and bad news. The team requested the bad news first. “Our flight’s been canceled,” she told them, referring to the 5:30 direct flight to Philadelphia the team had been scheduled to take. “So we’re busing back to Philadelphia.” This was bad news indeed, except for freshman Rachel Pearson, who has never been a fan of flying in the first place. The good news, though was that “we get to spend more time together!”

Nine hours more, in fact, as the team loaded up on supplies at Wal Mart and hit the road for Philadelphia. The team got in around 1:00 a.m., tired but satisfied after a successful conference road trip.

“Getting those two wins was big for us, and it was very encouraging to see us come out focused and ready to play, particularly on Sunday,” Dillon said after the games. “That could have been a trap game for us, coming off a big win and with everyone excited to get back home. But we focused on the task at hand and took care of business.”

Dillon cited the leadership of Mershon and important contributions from senior Renee Johnson-Allen, junior Fiona Flanagan and senior Nicki Jones over the week. She noted that a road trip like that removed all the distractions of home life in Philadelphia, and kept the team together for important bonding time that would help them down the road.

The Dragons are off to a strong start in 2013 as they look to accomplish some lofty team goals. If they can finish strong in March, the Dragons can look back on this week on the road as an important time when they were able to come together on the court and enjoy each other off it, building a team chemistry they will need to become champions.

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A Player to Watch November 11, 2011

Posted by Sam Angell in Women's Basketball.
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The women’s basketball season tips off for real tonight, as the Dragons host Long Island in the first round of the Preseason WNIT. This promises to be an exciting year for the Dragons with four seniors leading the way for a team looking to recapture the CAA title and return to the NCAA Tournament.

One of those seniors, Kamile Nacickaite, was featured in a recent ESPN article by Graham Hays, in which Hays called Nacickaite one of the “Top mid-major players to watch.

In the story, Hays has this to say about the Drexel senior:

Schools shifting conferences is all the rage these days, but there’s no truth to the rumor that Drexel applied to play in the next European championship. Following in the footsteps of former Drexel standout Gabriela Marginean on a roster that rarely lacks for international flavor, Nacickaite is poised for big things this season. The Lithuanian guard averaged 17.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game last season as a junior. She shot an astounding 47.8 percent from the 3-point line on 157 attempts, compared to 40.7 percent on 295 2-point attempts.

One other CAA player makes Hays’ list, VCU’s Courtney Hurt. Local fans might also be interested in Temple’s Shey Peddy, who was included in the rundown.

The DAC is getting ready for tip off tonight! If you’re in the area, be sure to stop by to see Nacickaite and the rest of the Dragons as they tip off the year. In the meantime, here’s a look at the season with head coach Denise Dillon in her first Coaches Show:

More Halloween Fun with the Dragons October 31, 2011

Posted by Sam Angell in General, Men's Lacrosse, Women's Basketball, Women's Soccer.
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Last week, we brought you a video of Drexel student-athletes and coaches describing their favorite Halloween costumes. Now, the day itself is upon us, and the Dragons’ Athletic Training staff has not disappointed, with each trainer dressing as one of the student athletes from his or her team.

Here’s Phil VandeBerg, Lindsey Toman and Ryan Fries. No one knows their student athletes better than these guys, and it shows in the attention to detail here. Although we must say, we don’t know any women’s basketball player with the impressive tattoos all over their right arm like Lindsey has here.

But that aside, these guys have been seen throughout the building all day with these outfits on. Phil hasn’t even taken his helmet off whenever we’ve seen him. And Lindsey’s headband really pulls the whole outfit together.

By the way, for those wondering, Scott Ellis left earlier today but was wearing his men’s soccer uniform while he was in the building. Which means that Ryan is sporting the women’s version here. Looks good Fries, the shin guards are an excellent touch of authenticity.

The Drexel Olympic Champions October 11, 2011

Posted by Sam Angell in Women's Basketball.
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The Summer Olympics are still several months away, but Drexel’s women’s basketball team has already awarded gold, silver and bronze medals to its Olympic teams. Every preseason, the team is split into groups and awarded points based on how well they do not only in conditioning and team drills, but also based on their contributions to other, less basketball-related activities. The Dragon Building Contest that we brought you a few weeks ago was one of the many events for which the teams were awarded points.

First, introducing the teams coming into the final day of competition, a multi-stage obstacle course.

Team Dungeon Dragons, Taylor Wootton, Tiffany Johnson, Kamile Nacickaite and Jackie Schluth (kneeling, in the Spongebob pajamas):

Team Drago, Nicole Jones, Renee Johnson-Allen, Tyler Hale and team manager Mai-Thy Vuong, who was filling in for Hollie Mershon, who was at the dentist’s office getting a filling in.

Team Dragon Breath, Marisa Crane, Ayana Lee, Tory Thierolf, Abby Redick and Fiona Flanagan.

This may come as no surprise, but points were awarded to the “Best Dressed Team.” In this year’s very unscientific poll, it was decided that Dungeon Dragons were the top fashionistas of 2011.

After that was determined, the teams began the final challenge, which involved three-legged races, football tosses, crab walking, and sprints, mixed in with brain teasers and riddles read by the coaching staff.

In the end, it must have been super-sub Mai-Thy who made the difference, because it was Drago (minus their high heels, which were subbed out for sneakers after the photos) that came out on top, not only for the day’s events but also for the preseason Olympics. Dragons Breath came in second in the final event, but could not overcome the point total of Dungeon Dragons, who finished second overall.

Also awarded were the Iron Dragons, given for outstanding performance in the team conditioning and weightlifting drills during the preseason. Those went to Tiffany Johnson, Hollie Mershon, Renee Johnson-Allen and Fiona Flanagan.

So with a month to go before the season opens, the opening ceremonies have already been held. Congrats to Drago and all the Iron Dragons!

 

Playing with Fire September 23, 2011

Posted by Sam Angell in Women's Basketball.
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Just a friendly warning to the rest of the CAA. If you mess with the Drexel women’s basketball team, prepare to get burned.

The Dragons were split into three groups to build their own dragon models this week, and it’s safe to say that one toasted the competition. Here’s Marisa Crane activating her group’s fire-breathing dragon:

It obviously got the attention of Associate Head Coach/camerawoman Amy Mallon, who forgot about her filming duties for a little bit after ignition. But if you were standing feet away from a fire breathing dragon, you would too.

Wrapping Up Italy: Photo Albums September 15, 2011

Posted by Sam Angell in Women's Basketball.
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Now that we have all gotten over jet lag, we’re starting to put up full collections of photos from the trip to Italy. To get it started, here is some of the outstanding photography of strength & conditioning coach Michael Rankin.

Mike Rankin’s Italy photos

Rankin has also started a second album, which anyone who was on the trip can upload their photos to. Keep an eye here for some of the photos taken by the staff and the players while we were in Italy:

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Back Home to Philadelphia September 12, 2011

Posted by Sam Angell in Women's Basketball.
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After a final day in Rome, which culminated with a nice team dinner at a small restaurant near the Pantheon and photos at a bridge crossing the river with a great view of St. Peter’s Basilica, the team woke up early Monday and headed for the airport. The flight took off a little before noon Rome time, and landed 10 hours later at 4:00 pm eastern.

Now, the team is boarding a bus from the Philadelphia International Airport to Drexel, where they will have a few more days of summer before classes start next week.

Italy now behind them, the women’s basketball team will look forward to another run to a CAA championship beginning in just a few short months. The schedule will be announced on DrexelDragons.com later this week, so stay tuned, and keep checking the Den for updates on them and the rest of the Dragons’ teams all year long!

Volterra and San Gimignano September 10, 2011

Posted by Sam Angell in Women's Basketball.
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The final full day in Tuscany for the Dragons women’s basketball team gave them a real taste of the region, with tours of the ancient towns of Volterra and San Gimignano. The girls had two more guided tours through the narrow, ancient streets, their final guided tours of the Italy trip.

First up was Volterra, an important town which dates back more than 2,000 years and contributed significantly to the culture of the ancient Roman empire, particularly with respect to architecture. The tour took the Dragons past the town’s center and cathedral, and ended up looking over the ruins of an old amphitheater, with Roman columns for a backdrop and the same seating design as the Colisseum.

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The team has made some friends over in Italy over the past week. Today, while walking through Tuscany, they found another:

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With an even older feel than Volterra, San Gimignano sits atop a hill and is important primarily for its artistic history. There, many medieval artworks are preserved in their original – often outdoor – locations, unlike the protected museum works of cities such as Florence.

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San Gimignano is also important as the home of Gelateria di Piazza, the two-time Gelato World Champions. Here, Kamile Nacickaite and Mike Rankin pose with their cones:

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The team is on its own for dinner this evening, and will head to Rome tomorrow for one final day in Italy before returning to Philadelphia on Monday.

Coach Mallon’s Pics September 9, 2011

Posted by Sam Angell in Women's Basketball.
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Associate Head Coach Amy Mallon has sent along a few of her favorite pictures from the trip so far, and wanted to share them with you. There will be more to come of pictures taken by everyone on the trip when we reach the conclusion, but for now, here’s a taste of what’s to come:

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Next Stop: Siena September 9, 2011

Posted by Sam Angell in Women's Basketball.
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The Dragons left their Florence hotel on Friday morning and hit the road for Siena, a hilltop town that in many areas looks untouched for centuries. After a quick lunch – not quick enough for many of the girls, who had to scarf down food after slow service at a local restaurant – the team met their Siena tour guide and began a walking tour of the town.

Siena is divided into 17 districts named primarily after animals. Appropriately, the tour began in the Dragon District. A few Dragons found their uniform numbers on the houses and stopped to take a picture.

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The tour wound through several districts, stopping briefly at the University of Siena, where the team paused for a picture.

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Eventually, the group made their way to the Piazza del Campo, the town center around which a horse race is held every August. Although the half of the square that was in the sun was largely desolate, the part that was in the shade was packed with people relaxing.

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The tour concluded at the town’s cathedral, where the group split off with some headed back to the hotel for a rest and some going shopping until a team dinner at 7. Drexel will spend two nights in Siena before returning to Rome on Sunday for its final day in Italy.

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