Fall Ball Focus: Jill Batcheller Sees Limitless Potential in Villanova

PHOTO COURTESY OF VILLANOVA ATHLETICS

Sydney Frank posted 40 ground balls and 25 caused turnovers for Villanova in 2021.


This spring, Jill Batcheller led Drexel to an historic season — a school-record 13 wins and the school’s first NCAA tournament appearance. With many of the top players coming back in 2022, there were some eyebrows raised when Batcheller left Drexel to take the head coaching position at Villanova, a school less than 10 miles from Drexel’s campus.

“I keep saying to everyone on the outside looking in, it wasn’t about Drexel,” Batcheller said. “It was about me. I grew up two miles away from the Villanova campus. Growing up around Villanova basketball and this university, it’s a job I’ve always seen for myself. Being part of a school that’s won national championships, it’s so exciting.”

Batcheller played the sport in high school at Archbishop Carroll in Radnor, Pa., just down the road from Villanova on the Main Line in Philadelphia’s suburbs, and ever since has been a part of building programs.

She played at Syracuse, joining the team when the program was less than a decade old, and scored over 100 points in her career while helping the Orange win their first Big East championship (2007).

She then took assistant coaching positions at St. Joseph’s and Brown before getting her first shot as a head coach at Bryant University, a program that had just transitioned from the NCAA Division II level to Division I. In six seasons leading the Bulldogs, she won five Northeast Conference regular-season championships and advanced to the NCAA tournament three times.

That led to the opportunity at Drexel, where she inherited a program coming off losing records in four of the previous five seasons. After going 6-10 in her first season in 2019, Batcheller and the Dragons showed promise in 2020 with a 5-2 record before COVID-19 shut things down. That promise came true last season with the record 13 wins, including three wins over traditional CAA power Towson, the first time Drexel had beaten the school since 2014.

And now, she gets to see what she can do at Villanova, a school that has never reached the NCAA tournament despite being located in one of the hotbeds of high school talent.

“The potential is limitless,” Batcheller said. “I do see this program being Big East champions, competing for national championships. The reach we’re able to have in recruiting with the academic and athletic profile of this school, I even more believe it now that I’m here.”

Making the transition easier will be the fact that Batcheller brought along assistant coaches Kelsea Donnelly and Maddie Lesher. They first joined her staff at Bryant, made the move to Drexel and now take on the challenge together at Villanova.







“I can’t even express how grateful and how excited I am to work with Maddie and Kelsey every day,” Batcheller said. “It’s true teamwork in every sense of the word. We trust each other so much, and there’s a lot of love within our coaching staff. The players get to see how much we trust each other, and we’re a real work family.”

They’ve gotten a first chance to see the team on the field in fall ball and have their first scrimmage coming up this weekend against Syracuse. The fall schedule will also include the Philly 5 tournament, which will feature some familiar faces, namely their old Drexel team.

“It’s going to be so hard to see them,” Batcheller said. “I really love them and the school and all of the administration at Drexel. I kind of chose not to play them in the spring because that would be too hard.”

Coaching against Drexel this fall will be hard step, but a necessary one as Batcheller begins the journey of using her experience to hopefully take Villanova to heights the program has never reached.

“I feel like I keep saying everything happens for a reason,” Batcheller said. “I have so many experiences as a player and a coach that have led me to this. Taking over two programs and bringing them to success within the conference, I have so much confidence going into this team, feeling like we have a recipe for what we need to do to reach our goals. The biggest thing I’m bringing to this new job is confidence and a roadmap for what we need to do and what the players will be going through. I know how hard and how fun the road is.”

VILLANOVA AT A GLANCE

Villanova must replace Katie Comerford, the program’s all-time leading scorer with 264 points (153 goals, 111 assists) … The Wildcats return three All-Big East performers from last season … Sydney Frank (40 ground balls, 25 caused turnovers) and Libby McKenna (29 goals, 13 assists) earned first-team honors, and Alexa Tsahalis (18 goals, nine assists) earned second-team recognition … Cara Moreau, a member of the CAA all-rookie team at Drexel, has transferred to Villanova after scoring 14 goals off the bench for the Dragons … Villanova has qualified for the last two Big East tournaments.

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