Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Top 5 Drexel Athletics Moments of 2013

With a new year comes new goals, new hopes, new dreams, and most of all, the clean slate to do it. With a new year also comes looking back at the previous year to assess what went wrong and what went right, what we can do differently and what should continue. Drexel is never looked upon as a powerhouse in the realm of collegiate athletics, but the school certainly fields teams across the board that should not be taken lightly. The team with perhaps the largest following at Drexel -- the men's basketball team -- had an uncharacteristically down year in 2013, but the rest of the athletic department was right there behind them to pick them up and make 2013 a tremendous year in Drexel athletics.

Here are the top five moments in Drexel athletics in 2013:

5) Dragons Storm Madison Square Garden
Drexel had a lot to be thankful for over Thanksgiving break in 2013. During that week, two Dragons squads competed at the "The World's Most Famous Arena."

First up was the Drexel men's basketball team making the trip to New York City playing two games as part of the NIT Season Tip-Off. The Dragons secured their spot at the Garden beating a tough Elon team in the first round of the tournament and Rutgers on the Scarlett Knights' home court. At the Garden, the Dragons faced a tall task facing then No. 4 and current No. 1 team in the country, Arizona. Drexel did not back down, though, jumping out to a massive 19 point first half lead. Unfortunately, they could not hang on, losing by only four points, but the effort did not go unnoticed.

The day after Thanksgiving, Drexel faced Alabama in the third place game of the NIT Season Tip-Off. Again, the Dragons jumped out to a double-digit first half lead. The Crimson Tide battled their way back to tie at regulation, sending the game into overtime. In an incredible warm-up game for the Duke-Arizona championship, Drexel and Alabama battled through three overtimes before the Dragons came out on top by a score of 85-83. The win over Alabama was the men's basketball team's first ever over an SEC team.

Not to be outdone, the Drexel wrestling team traveled up to the Big Apple that same weekend for the Grapple at the Garden. The mat men wrestled against Princeton and George Mason the Saturday after Thanksgiving, falling to the Tigers but finishing off the day with a win over the Patriots. Drexel had four guys win both of their matches that day, including Tanner Shoap, Noel Blanco, Austin Sommer, and Brandon Palik. The Dragons are a young squad with a bright future, and their visit to the Garden was a small glimpse at what they're capable of.

4) Drexel Hosts Major Events with More to Come
Hosting major events is a tremendous way for athletic departments to show that they can hang with the big boys. Drexel was not to be shut out in 2013 hosting the NCAA Lacrosse Championships as well as the U.S. Open of Squash. The NCAA Lacrosse Championships were held in May at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles. The Dragons hosted the D-I Final Four and championship as well as the D-II and D-III championships. Duke took home the D-I title beating the No. 1 ranked Syracuse team.

The NCAA Lacrosse Championships kept on giving to Drexel, too. The Dragons were awarded the hosting rights for the 2015 and 2016 NCAA Lacrosse Championships, and former Drexel lacrosse standouts Robert Church and Ben McIntosh were drafted into the National Lacrosse League.

As students headed back to campus in the fall, so did the U.S. Open of Squash. For the third time, Drexel hosted the international tournament, one of the biggest on the annual international squash circuit. The sport of squash has been good to Drexel of late, and 2013 was no different. In addition to hosting the 2013 U.S. Open, Drexel President John Fry was named Chairman of the Board for U.S. Squash and Drexel was awarded the hosting rights to the U.S. Open for the next 10 years.

3) Men's Rowing Dominates the Dad Vail Regatta
Believe it or not, rowing holds a place in Philadelphia sporting history on a similar level as college basketball. For the decades since the dam was build in the Schuylkill Rivers, its calm waters have created the perfect course for rowing competitions. Of those competitions, none are bigger than the annual Dad Vail Regatta. It's an incredible tradition for the city's colleges, one that cannot be truly appreciated until seen in-person.

Bragging rights last for an entire year, and this year, Drexel secured theirs. The Dragons took home an impressive four gold medals, one silver medal, and one bronze medal. On top of it all, one of Drexel's gold medals was the prestigious Men's Varsity 8 which helped the men to the overall team title.

2) Men's Soccer Wins the CAA
The Drexel men's soccer team was able to accomplish something that the Drexel men's soccer team had never done: win the CAA championship. Last season, the Dragons won the CAA regular season title and earned an NCAA at-large berth, but they still had to get over that final hump. Under the direction of head coach Doug Hess, Drexel finally pulled off the feat, winning the CAA title at home at Vidas. This was all after the Dragons were able to outlast Delaware in a nine round shootout in the semifinals before they went on to be William & Mary 1-0 for the title. Drexel fell in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Old Dominion.

1) Women's Basketball Wins WNIT Championship
Universities are judged based on their national championships, and thanks to the women's basketball team, Drexel had one in 2013. In an exhilarating run through the WNIT brackets on their way to history, the Dragons met Utah in the finals. To make things even sweeter, the final game was played on Drexel's home-court at the DAC in front of the fans that they had fired up all season long.

Drexel's women brought home the first women's basketball championship not only for Drexel, but for the city of Philadelphia. The Dragons beat Utah 46-43 in a thriller at the DAC for Drexel athletics' top moment of 2013. The win also propelled Hollie Mershon to a professional career in Lithuania and Taylor Wootton to head coach Denise Dillon's staff.

They also provided the best Drexel athletic photo of 2013...

It was a memorable 2013 calendar year for Drexel athletics. There was no shortage of great moments whether it be Bruiser Flint becoming Drexel all-time leader in men's basketball wins and winning his 300th career game. Four Drexel coaches won Coach of the Year honors in their respective sports -- Mike Dynda (golf), Doug Hess (soccer), Paul Savell (rowing), and Katryn Valladares (diving). Former Drexel wrestler Zach Makovsky signed a contract with the UFC and won his first fight. 

Here's to an even better 2014!


Kevin Rossi is a junior Drexel Sport Management major with minors in Communications and Business Administration. Since joining the SMTSU, Kevin has worked his way up the ladder to President. Currently, Kevin is also the Drexel editor for Philahoops.com. Kevin recently finished his second co-op with Temple University in their Athletic Communications office. Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

Connect with Kevin Rossi on LinkedIn

No comments:

Post a Comment