Half a world away from their home court, Drexel women’s basketball is getting an invaluable opportunity to grow together as a team well before the official start to the season.
Beginning Aug. 19, the Dragons will be traveling across western Europe, making stops in Belgium, the Netherlands and France to play four different high-level clubs.
“It’ll be a good thing for us as a team to build some chemistry and get the freshmen on the same page,” said Meghan Creighton, a redshirt junior guard. “It’s fun because you get some basketball but you also get some sightseeing.”
This is the third time during Denise Dillon’s tenure as women’s basketball head coach that the team has taken a trip overseas. She’s noticed something about the Dragons’ international jaunts.
“The first time around we went to Spain and won our first conference championship. The year after we went to Italy, and we went on to win the WNIT championship,” Dillon said. “I don’t know if there’s a pattern. We normally try to do team-building exercises, but nothing beats being overseas and playing four competitive teams.”
Whether this trip portends another extraordinary season remains to be seen, but Dillon knows it will give her extra time she normally wouldn’t have to evaluate her team.
“You’re trying to figure out your rotation and who can play,” Dillon said. “This gives us the chance to embrace that and see what players have stepped up. We can also get ready for one of the toughest out-of-conference schedules we have ever set up.”
Drexel’s first stateside game this year is in the preseason WNIT against Dartmouth Nov. 13 at the Daskalakis Athletic Center. They could also eventually play strong teams like Central Florida or Baylor as they move through the bracket.
“We know we have a lot of work leading up to it,” Dillon said.
“It’s 20 days of practice we normally don’t have, so we’ll be readier,” Creighton said.
But with the European trip on their minds, the Dragons are focusing mainly on getting into game shape.
“It’s a pretrial for the upcoming season, shaking off the cobwebs,” said Jackie Schluth, a forward. “It’s nice to get into game mode early on.”
Schluth is a sixth-year player who is returning thanks to a medical redshirting. As such, she’s been on an international trip as a player before. She feels she knows a little about what to expect from their competition, which consists of professional teams from the countries they’re visiting.
Additionally, she’ll actually have the opportunity to play against Jasmina Rosseel, a former Dragon teammate who now plays in Belgium.
“It’s going to be really cool,” Schluth said. “I’m excited to see her again. It’s a unique experience, five or six years later, so it’s going to be a nice little rivalry.”
For one player on Drexel’s roster, playing in Belgium will be playing in front of a home crowd. Freshman forward Eline Maesschalck is from Aalst, a city roughly 20 miles northwest of Brussels, and will actually meet up with the team in Europe.
Additionally, Tereza Kracikova, a freshman center, is also from Europe, hailing from Prague.
“The biggest thing is, we have recruited internationally and I feel it’s important for young women to experience different cultures,” said Dillon. “The international student-athletes get to see what it’s like for their teammates here in the United States and we get an opportunity to see what it’s like their hometowns.”
That all comes back to the main focus of the trip: jelling as a team.
“I just want to bond with my team, get closer off the court, on the court, all around,” Schluth said. “And I think it’ll reflect well on our season coming up.”