Fall Ball Focus: Kim Hillier Already Feels at Home at Drexel

PHOTO BY KEVIN P. TUCKER

Lucy Schneidereith is already being praised for her leadership skills by new head coach Kim Hillier.


There’s eagerness in Kim Hillier’s voice. She speaks as if time is of the essence. In reality, her time is just getting started.

Hillier, named Drexel’s women’s lacrosse coach on August 5, didn’t enter the summer looking for her first NCAA head coaching gig. She was perfectly content at Stony Brook as Joe Spallina’s associate head coach. The only way she’d leave Long Island, a place where she went to high school and college and spent much of her coaching career, was for the right opportunity.

This one fell into her lap.

“I was blown away going into [the campus visit] with no intentions,” Hillier said. “I was like, ‘I have everything I need right now in my life at Stony Brook.’ For me, it was going to take a lot to take this leap. [Athletic Director Maisha Kelly] came over from Bucknell, and I was her first hire. I felt like royalty walking onto campus with how much of a focus women’s lacrosse was.”

Drexel, then coached by Jill Batcheller, enjoyed an historic 2021 season. The Dragons accrued a program-record 13 wins and danced for the first time in the NCAA tournament. Armed with a high-octane offense, Drexel became a CAA force despite coming into the season as an afterthought.

Batcheller left this summer for Villanova — a dream job of hers, as she told USA Lacrosse Magazine’s Brian Logue — leaving the door open for new leadership of a team returning an enviable wealth of talent from last spring.

“I was never going to take a head coaching job just to say I was taking a head coaching job. It had to be worth my time,” Hillier said. “The depth of this team, it’s insane.”

The 2022 roster is ripe with experience and firepower. Colleen Grady (48 goals, 41 assists), Karson Harris (61 goals, eight assists) and Lucy Schneidereith (58 goals, three assists) return as a one of the more dangerous trios in the sport. Corinne Bednarik (30 goals, 11 assists) will provide further depth in the midfield.

Zoe Bennett, the goalie who influenced Drexel’s postseason aspirations, returns between the pipes after a 150-save campaign. Maura Cissel, a graduate student, transferred in from Arizona State to help fortify the draw — an area at which Drexel already boasted considerable talent with Harris, Hayleigh Simpson and Grace Harding returning.

Taking a page out of Spallina’s book, Hillier was primed to hype up her players. That excitement again evident through the phone.

“The leadership from Lucy Schneidereith, my goodness. She epitomizes the word ‘leader,’” Hillier said. “Zoe Bennett, she’s great. Colleen Grady, being a lefty feeder and dodger, you’re going to see a ton of great things from her. Karson Harris, in my opinion, is one of the best midfielders in the country — and that will be made known this year through her play.”







There are certainly parallels between Stony Brook and Drexel, and they extend beyond Hillier’s connection to both programs. Both mid-majors, there’s seemingly always a fair bit of doubt in how far those teams will go each season. The Seawolves seem to have shed much of that, making the NCAA quarterfinals in three of the past four tournaments, but Drexel still has much to prove. Being a consistent competitor will help establish that respect.

Hillier senses a similar hunger in the Dragons.

“It reminded me a lot of that Stony Brook type of player,” Hillier said. “They may not be the most polished, but if you can get into the trenches and develop those players, the results will take care of themselves. I walked into a situation where everything was set. If you’re going to tell me that I get these players, and you’re going to hand me a whistle and tell me to develop these kids, sign me up.”

Hillier filled out her coaching staff with U.S. women’s national team veteran Katie O’Donnell and Alyssa Guido, a player she recruited and coached at Stony Brook. The team has responded well to its change in leadership and direction.

To capitalize on that hunger, practices will be more intense. Stick work will be a “religious thing.” Everything will be game speed, and everything will have a purpose. The goal is to push the pace more often and create transition opportunities. Moving the ball quickly and making the extra pass will be of the highest priorities.

That’s not a big ask, in Hillier’s mind. Her players are equipped for the challenge and ready to learn. That eagerness, not unlike her own, has helped make Philadelphia feel a bit more like home.

“I wouldn’t be here if it didn’t feel like home,” Hillier said. “It just felt right.”

DREXEL AT A GLANCE

Ranked No. 18 in the USA Lacrosse Magazine Early Top 25 … Hillier and Batcheller took their official visit to Syracuse together as high school recruits (Batcheller later played for the Orange from 2004-07; Hillier played at Hofstra) … Hillier was overwhelmed with more than 400 messages on her phone after being named Drexel’s head coach … Bennett, a grad student, has started 54 of 55 games in goal since earning the starter’s job as a freshman … Harris recorded three-plus goals in 14 of 16 games in 2021 and set single-season program records in goals (61) and draw controls (92); she also set the program’s career draws record (266) … Both Harris (193) and Grady (231) are within striking distance of Emily Hoesch’s career points record of 251 … 2021 was the first time Drexel went undefeated against conference opponents in the regular season (4-0) … Drexel is 0-20 all time against James Madison, the team that ousted the Dragons in the CAA championship game.

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