Drexel Athletic Director Picks 20 Biggest Moments of 2014

Drexel men's lacrosse celebrates its first-ever NCAA tournament victory by dumping Gatorade on coach Brian Voelker
Drexel men's lacrosse celebrates its first-ever NCAA tournament victory by dumping Gatorade on coach Brian Voelker.

In a year in which he saw “his” German national soccer team triumph at the World Cup in Brazil, Eric Zillmer, PhD, Drexel’s director of athletics counts many Dragons sports moments just as exciting.

“All year, our Drexel coaches and student-athletes showed that anything is possible at Drexel University by competing at the highest collegiate level, bringing pride and excitement to our ‘I am a Dragon’ campus,” Zillmer wrote in a newsletter this week.

With the calendar year closed, Zillmer counted down his top 20 favorite moments from 2014 and challenged those looking them over to see how many they attended.

20. Women’s Lacrosse Coach Hannah Rudloff Scores First Win as Head Coach

In a decisive 12-7 victory Feb. 16 in which the Dragons outshot their opponent, George Washington University, Rudloff secured her first victory and preceded key victories over La Salle University, St. Joseph’s University and Towson University.

“Congratulations, Hannah,” Zillmer said. “The best is yet to come for Drexel Women’s Lacrosse.”

19. Melissa Chapman Named First Team All-Conference for Women’s Soccer

Senior women's soccer defender Melissa Chapman made first team all-Colonial Athletic Association.

A senior, Chapman notched five goals and led the Dragons to the playoffs for the second time in the program’s history. This was Chapman’s third time on the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) end-of-season list, the first time a Drexel women’s soccer player ever accomplished that.

18. Three Drexel Wrestlers Qualify for NCAA Tournament

Kevin Devoy Jr., Brandon Palik and Austin Sommer all advanced to the nationals for their sport held in Oklahoma City. They were unable to make it to the second day of the championships but “laid it all on the line in the consolation bracket,” Zillmer said, where they “experienced narrow losses.”

17. Drexel Golf Places Second as Chris Crawford Wins the City Six Invitational

As a team, Drexel finished just two shots behind the eventual winner Oct. 25, the University of Pennsylvania, on the strength of Crawford, Yoseph Dance, Avery Schneider and Adam Mistretta’s performances.

“Crawford made six birdies at the Philadelphia Cricket Club on the Milita Hill Course and defeated his nearest opponent by two scores,” Zillmer wrote.

16. Drexel Wins Welcoa Well Workplace Award for Second Year

Although not directly tied to the Athletics Department, the award from the Wellness Council of America (Welcoa) recognizes the University for its efforts to develop “comprehensive workplace wellness programs.”

15. Jersey Becomes First Regular On-Site Therapy Dog at the Recreation Center

Another moment more about fitness at the University than sports, Drexel was recognized in 2014 for having the first regularly on-site therapy dog at a college campus in North America.

14. Drexel Hosts Fourth Delaware Investment U.S. Men’s and Women’s Squash Open

“This year’s U.S. Open saw growth in attendance [and] signature series events celebrating character in sports, women and U.S. Hall of Famers, as well as more than 15 individuals honored, recognized or awarded for their contributions to squash,” Zillmer said.

Women's squash player in action.

Zillmer also personally hosted Simon Roesner and Nikolas “Niky” Mueller, the German and Swiss (respectively) champions of squash.

13. Men’ Squash Named “Most Improved” at Hoehn Cup

In its third season, Drexel men’s squash finished 16th in the Collegiate Squash Association’s rankings and was named the most improved team.

“The Drexel men’s squash team made big strides in 2014, earning a spot in the Collegiate Squash Association’s second division for its year-end team championships, the Hoehn Cup,” Zillmer said.

12. Women’s Squash Finishes Season Ranked 14th

Women’s squash also continued to improve and finished 14th in the nation, the highest ranking the team has ever achieved. In the national championship Kurtz Cup, the team won its first round in the consolation bracket before being downed by a 6-3 score in their second match.

11. Men’s Basketball Travels to China

In a 10-day journey in August, the men’s basketball team took a tour of China in which it played four games, including a respectable loss to the Shanghai Sharks, Yoa Ming’s former team.

In addition to playing the international “friendlies,” the Dragons helped run a basketball clinic for more than 200 coaches.

“No question, China is a global sports power with basketball being the most popular college sport,” Zillmer wrote. “The rich culture and history we all expected, but we were blown away by the friendliness of its elegant people and the sheer scale of China.”

10. Drexel Men’s Lacrosse Travels to Japan, Wins Against National Team

Drexel men’s basketball players weren’t the only globetrotters this year. Men’s lacrosse took a trip to Japan in June, during which the team played four games, winning them all.

The crowning moment was Drexel’s victory over Japan’s national team in an 11-7 victory in which Cole Shafer earned the game’s MVP honors.

9. Wrestling Competes at Madison Square Garden

In the Grapple at Madison Square Garden, Drexel wrestling concluded its fall season with a defeat at the hands of Northern Iowa University before a decisive 25-11 win over George Mason University.

Drexel wrestling on the video screen at Madison Square Garden.

“It is a special honor to compete at the World’s Most Famous Arena,” Zillmer wrote. “As the Dragons were introduced with smoke and pyrotechnics, the goose bumps of the occasion had to sink in.”

8. Women’s Varsity Eight Crew Team Win Silver at Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta

On home water, the women’s eight crew team won second in a race they ended up losing by just five seconds.

“With 100 yards [to go], the Dragons were in fourth place and out of medal contention,” Zillmer said. “But with the verbal command of ‘Henley’ by the coxswain, the team found an extra gear, 10 unbelievable strokes from the finish line, and with the sizable Drexel contingent in the stands, including University President John Fry, they somehow managed to come in second by a few inches at the finish line, two tenths of a second.”

7. Drexel’s Recreation Center and Intramural Sports Earn National Rankings and Awards

“If Drexel recreational athletics were a team, 2014 would have been their best season in the history of the program,” Zillmer wrote.

Two out of every three Drexel students participate in intramurals, he said, and 1,200 students play on one of the University’s 34 club teams.

Multiple media outlets noted recreation at the University, including PHL17 and TopCounselingSchools.org.

6. Academic Achievements by Athletes

Drexel’s men’s soccer and women’s tennis teams received the NCAA’s Public Recognition Award for their athletes’ eligibility retention and graduation rates.

The cumulative GPA for student athletes at Drexel was 3.21 in 2014 and the graduation rate of athletes at the University stood at 82 percent, 12 percentage points higher than the University’s rate for all students.

5. Belka Scores in Overtime to Put Drexel Men’s Lacrosse into CAA Finals

At the start of overtime against Towson May 1, the Dragons worked the ball to junior midfielder Ryan Belka, who used two screens to get into position.

“He drove to the left alley and fired a right-handed shot, low to low, off the far pipe to score the tiebreaker and put Drexel into its third CAA title game,” Zillmer wrote.

4. Women’s Basketball Coach Denise Dillon Notches 200th Career Win

Denise Dillon’s Dragons held the University of Miami (Ohio) Redhawks to just 54 points and held a rebounding edge of 40 to 30 for Dec. 28’s milestone victory in Drexel’s opening game of the Cavalier Classic in Virginia.

Denise Dillon after her 200th win.

“One of the trademarks of Drexel head coach Denise Dillon’s teams has been the play of the defense,” Zillmer remarked. “So it was fitting that Dillon’s 200th career victory featured one of the Dragons’ best defensive efforts of the season.”

Dillon already has coached Drexel to more Division I wins than anyone else and became the fourth CAA coach with at least 200.

3. Crew Repeats as Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta’s Overall Champions

For the second year in a row, Drexel’s crew teams combined to take home the overall points championship in the 76th annual regatta.

“Drexel closed out the competition with 42 total points, seven more than both of the second-place finishers, Bucknell and UMass,” Zillmer wrote.

The teams also racked up four medals.

2. Shafer Scores in Third Overtime to Win Men’s Lacrosse CAA Title

With the league tournament championship on the line, Drexel’s men’s lacrosse team headed to Hofstra, a perennial powerhouse, for a wild night on Long Island April 30.

“What a game it was,” Zillmer said. “One of the best athletic contests I have ever witnessed.”

After a back and forth game went into a third overtime period, redshirt freshman Cole Shafer scored his fifth goal of the game to win 11-10.

“From where I was standing (everyone was standing at that point) it looked as if Shafer surprised Hofstra’s goalie with a shot early into Drexel’s possession,” according to Zillmer.

The win punched the men’s lacrosse team’s ticket to the NCAA tournament.

1. Men’s Lacrosse Beats Penn on Mother’s Day at Franklin Field

“When the draw came out for the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Championship, one did not have to be a sports guru to know that Drexel would be paired up with nationally ranked and fourth-seeded Penn, the 2014 Ivy League champion,” Zillmer said. “And so it went.”

After the Dragons closed the first half with a flurry of three goals in less than 12 seconds to lead the Quakers 7-6, they didn’t look back. Drexel surged to a 16-11 victory over Penn for its first ever NCAA tournament victory and shocked the lacrosse world.

“That was my favorite Dragon moment of 2014,” Zillmer said.