Bridget Hyland (@bridgethyland4)
With the end of summer approaching, sights are set on the upcoming NCAA women’s basketball season. The release of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) 2021-22 schedule has been stirring up excitement, as it is the first league slate to be released with local programs.
Amy Mallon (above) is in her second year as Drexel's WBB head coach. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Drexel University will enter the season as the defending CAA champions, seeking to prove they are worthy of that title. Last year, the Dragons finished 14-9 overall, and 8-6 in conference play. Despite finishing third in its conference, Drexel went on to defeat Delaware, 63-52, following its wins over Elon and James Madison, two teams it had split series with during the regular season.
Drexel will kick off conference play on December 31 at home against Towson, the first of a stretch that sees them play five of their first seven conference games in the friendly confines of the DAC. But that's followed by five of seven on the road, beginning with a weekend at Elon and William & Mary on Jan. 28 and 30.
This season, Drexel returns much of its 2020-21 team, including four of its five starters, whose experience will bring the team a significant competitive edge into the new season. Last year was the first as head coach for Amy Mallon, who spent 16 years as a Drexel assistant before rising up to the top spot. Mallon, who played at Richmond, was on the bench during the Dragons’ only other CAA Tournament championship, in 2009.
A major contributor to Drexel’s success last season is Hannah Nihill (Cardinal O’Hara), who will be returning for her final year of eligibility. Nihill, a 5-3 point guard, received the CAA Defensive Player of the Year award last season, becoming the first Dragon to do so. She led her team in scoring and assists with 16.3 and 3.8 per game, respectively, as well as 3-point shooting percentage (.368) and steals, with a whopping 65 for the season.
Another Dragon to look out for is guard Keishana Washington, whose contributions in the CAA tournament — putting up 35 points in the semifinal game against JMU and 30 points against Delaware — pushed the Dragons over the finish line in the championship. Washington finished the 2020-21 season averaging 14.6 points and 3.5 rebounds a game.
A date undoubtedly marked on Drexel and Delaware’s calendars is January 23, where the two will face off for the first time since last season’s title game. Last year, the Blue Hens finished 25-5 overall and first in the CAA with a 16-2 record, only dropping its conference match-ups to Drexel. It was another chapter in the rivalry between the two squads, as over the last 10 seasons, Drexel has a 16-13 lead in head-to-head play.
The first game between Drexel and JMU is also one to mark down, as the Dragons split with the Dukes before defeating them in the semifinals one year ago. JMU finished above Drexel in regular season play, taking second place with a 14-10 (9-6) record.
The two programs will face each other again on January 2 at Drexel.
JMU’s first meeting with Delaware is another notable one to watch, as during the 2020-21 campaign, the Blue Hens topped the Dukes 94-88 in overtime before losing, 65-62, the next day. Being the top two regular season teams coming in from last year should make for an exciting game to open up the CAA schedule at Delaware.
Here’s a look at Drexel's full CAA schedule:
Fri., Dec. 31 vs. Towson
Sun., Jan. 2 vs. James Madison
Fri., Jan. 7 @ Charleston
Sun., Jan. 9 @ UNC-Wilmington
Fri., Jan. 14 vs. Northeastern
Sun., Jan. 16 vs. Hofstra
Sun., Jan. 23 vs. Delaware
Fri., Jan. 28 @ Elon
Sun., Jan. 30 @ William & Mary
Fri., Feb. 4 vs. UNC-Wilmington
Sun., Feb. 6 vs. Charleston
Fri., Feb. 11 @ Hofstra
Sun., Feb. 13 @ Northeastern
Sun., Feb. 20 @ Delaware
Fri., Feb. 25 vs. William & Mary
Sun., Feb. 27 vs. Elon
Thurs., March 3 @ James Madison
Sat., March 5 @ Towson
CAA WBB Chamiponships
March 9-12; Harrisonburg, Va.