2022 NCAA Lacrosse Preview: No. 17 Drexel (Women)

PHOTO BY KEVIN P. TUCKER

Colleen Grady led Drexel with 89 points in 2021.


The 2022 college lacrosse season is nearly upon us. As is our annual tradition, we’re featuring every team ranked in the Nike/USA Lacrosse Preseason Top 20.

Check back to USALaxMagazine.com each weekday this month for new previews, scouting reports and rival analysis.

NO. 17 DREXEL

2021 Record: 13-3 (4-0 CAA)
Final Ranking (2021): No. 12
Coach: Kim Hillier (1st season)

Entering 2022 with an abundance of “knowns” — basically an entire roster that returns from last season — Drexel also begins the new season with one colossal unknown.

What will this new iteration of the Dragons look like under new head coach Kim Hillier? Certainly, new strategies will be implemented and new players will emerge. But Hillier inherits a talented team that Jill Batcheller groomed before leaving for Villanova.

While those players embraced that Batcheller helped get them to the NCAA tournament during a historic 2021 season, they also embraced the need for change to reach the next level.

“It feels different,” graduate midfielder Lucy Schneidereith said during fall ball. “We didn’t rep things out and grind drills over and over again in the past, so it feels really good to get so many reps. I think that was our downfall last year. In the pressure moments, we were tired and we’d drop. These drills are pushing us physically and mentally.”

Hillier’s goal is to run her new team into shape. It’s not a punishment. Her hope is that the intense conditioning will prove fruitful come April and May. Hillier wants her team to get up and down the field and create transition opportunities — reminiscent of the Stony Brook teams of which she was an assistant coach under Joe Spallina.

NIKE/USAL PRESEASON TOP 20
TEAM PREVIEWS

1. Boston College

2. North Carolina

3. Syracuse

4. Northwestern

5. Stony Brook

6. Maryland

7. Notre Dame

8. Duke

9. Loyola

10. Florida

11. Virginia

12. James Madison

13. Princeton

14. Stanford

15. Denver

16. Rutgers

17. Drexel

18. Jacksonville

19. UConn

20. Penn

Those teams were gritty and relentless. Luckily for Hillier, those are traits she needs to teach her new players. As players who struggled through adversity early in their careers at a mid-major, they already come with a certain chip on their shoulders.

“Right away, I got the vibe that this was the kind of place where people just worked their butts off,” Schneidereith said, recalling her initial visit to Drexel years ago.

The midfield, led by Schneidereith and Karson Harris, is easily the team’s biggest strength. It’ll continue to be a focal point if transition becomes the name of the game. Harris and Schneidereith also contribute to an offense quarterback by Colleen Grady, who led the team with 89 points and 41 assists last season. Grady will get some help from breakout candidate Allison Drake, a junior who didn’t play much — if at all — in 2021 but will shoulder increased responsibility after a strong fall.

“She is going to be an impact player,” Hillier said of Drake.

Drexel isn’t short on impact players, and that extends to the defense. Zoe Bennett was the 2021 CAA Goalie of the Year and is the epitome of a defensive anchor. The Dragons lose two defensive starters in Arden Edgerton and Rachel Warden, but Belle McHugh is back to help on that end. Hayleigh Simpson, a midfielder who started 16 games but made her presence felt defensively and on the circle, will help on that end, too.

One of the deepest teams in the country in terms of veteran leadership, Drexel is poised to continue its upward trajectory after a surprising breakout last spring. Coaches are taking notice.

“They deserve to be a team that’s talked about,” one rival coach said.






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TOP RETURNERS

Karson Harris, M, Grad.

Already a program great, Harris led Drexel in goals (61), draw controls (92) and caused turnovers (15) in 2021, a showcase of her impact in all areas on the field. She was the first Dragon to be named the CAA Player of the Year as a result. A first-team USA Lacrosse Magazine Preseason All-American, Harris is a difference-maker. Kim Hillier calls her the best midfielder in the country.

Colleen Grady, A, Grad.

Grady shot 60 percent and 85 percent on goal, a testament to how automatic she can be when given the ball in close. Her 89 points and 41 assists led the team. A true facilitator, Grady is third in program history in points (231) and eighth in goals (132).

Lucy Schneidereith, M, Grad.

Kim Hillier can’t say enough about Schneidereith’s ability to lead. The Lutherville (Md.) product speaks confidently and plays with a swagger. She amassed a career-high 61 points in 2021 and is both an emotional and on-field leader.

Zoe Bennett, G, Grad.

The 2021 CAA Goalie of the Year saved 46.4 percent of shots faced and had eight games of double-digit saves. Always consistent, Bennett broke out to a degree last spring as the backbone of Drexel’s defense. A cerebral player, Bennett speaks softly but commands attention when she makes her voice heard.

KEY ADDITION

Maura Cissel, M, Grad.

A graduate transfer from Arizona State, Cissel adds instant depth on the draw circle. She controlled 111 draws in 2021 and 153 in 37 career games with the Sun Devils. Cissel, who also plays with Type-1 diabetes, is expected to be a difference-maker.

BREAKOUT CANDIDATES

Allison Drake, A, Jr.

Drake didn’t see any time on the field in 2021, but a new coaching staff brings a fresh perspective to personnel. Thus, Drake is going to play next to Colleen Grady at the X as a multi-dimensional attacker. She can break down a defender with a dodge and is relentless on the ride, something Kim Hillier is putting increased importance on.

Claire Jarema, M, Redshirt-Sr.

Jarema has bought into the new coaching staff’s philosophy, setting her up for an impactful spring. She’s a speedy midfielder who brings athleticism onto the field. Although she didn’t play a ton last season, she notched her only goal and assist against James Madison in the CAA championship game.

ENEMY LINES

What rival coaches say about the Dragons:

“Drexel is an experienced team that plays with a lot of confidence. They know what their strengths are, and they have a lot of people who can score. They play with a chip and an edge. They can make a lot of noise this year. They deserve to be a team that’s talked about.”

BEYOND THE BASICS
POWERED BY LACROSSE REFERENCE

38.8%

Drexel’s offense was good. Their raw efficiency rating was 37.2 percent, good for ninth in Division I women’s lacrosse. But when you account for the strength of the opposing defenses, they look even better. Their opponent-adjusted efficiency rating was 38.8 percent, which puts them sixth overall. — Zack Capozzi

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