Among the trophies that sit on shelves at the entrance to the Athletics Department office in the Daskalakis Athletic Center, one is easily the smallest and most unassuming. It’s made of wood and adorned with a small medallion showing a man kicking a soccer ball.
But the 55-year-old trophy may be Drexel’s proudest athletic possession. It was awarded to the only varsity athletic squad in the University’s history to win a national championship: the 1958 men’s soccer team.
And the slightly faded trophy commemorates a team that was anything but unassuming. The 1958 Dragons steamrolled through their 12-game schedule undefeated and untied, and it wasn’t close. They opened their season with a 7-1 romp over Western Maryland and ended it with a 5-2 victory against Lehigh in the Mid-Atlantic Conference championship, and the scores didn’t get any closer in between. They outscored their opponents by a combined 76-15.
“No opponent even approached victory over this vaunted team,” proclaimed The Drexel Triangle in its Jan. 23, 1959, edition. Its front page was devoted to the soccer team, which had just been named the best in the country by the Intercollegiate Soccer Football Association. (The NCAA would not hold its first national soccer championship until the 1959 season.)
It was a team with three All-Americans, plus another player who set a Drexel goal-scoring record of 22 that still stands today. That was Igor Lissy, a sophomore on the team.
Lissy, now 76, lives in Glen Mills. He can still vividly recount his time on the team, which he said was an invaluable escape from his challenging mechanical engineering studies.
“You’d take the elevated subway line to 43rd and Powelton and you’d go into a different world,” Lissy said.
He and the team’s other two middle forwards, Ozzie Jethon and Stanley “Stosh” Dlugosz, had competed against each other as soccer stars at Philadelphia high schools before coming together at Drexel. With expert coaching from head coach Don Yonker and assistant Al Laverson, they formed an offensive juggernaut.
It was a remarkable collection of talent, Lissy said. Jethon and Dlugosz, along with fullback Bob Muschek, were named All-Americans. The team’s backups, he said, would have been starters on any other team.
And even though they felt they were at a disadvantage to their opponents because of their rigorous studies at Drexel, they worked hard. After every practice, the team would jog and jog until it got too dark to see the black cinder track.
“We gave it all we had,” Lissy said.
Some referees and other officials considered the 1958 Dragons the best collegiate soccer team ever, The Triangle reported. In addition, the newspaper said, the team “was respected by opposing squads for their clean play and sportsmanship.”
The team, as well as several of its individual members, was later inducted into the Drexel Athletics Hall of Fame. Lissy said that, to his knowledge, he and his former teammates played very little soccer after finishing their careers at Drexel. But their historically dominant 1958 season still stands alone in Drexel sports history — as distinctive as the small wooden trophy that stands as a tribute.