September 20, 2013 by Brian Palmer
Last season, Drexel women’s basketball coach Denise Dillon led the Dragons through a season unlike any other. There was little expectation heading into the 2012-13 season, as the Dragons were picked to finish fourth in the Colonial Athletic Association. They had lost their leading scorer, Kamile Nacickaite, and were heading into a tough CAA schedule with a freshman point guard. But led by four seniors — Taylor Wootton, Renee Johnson-Allen, Nicki Jones and Hollie Mershon — the Dragons had the best season in Drexel basketball history.
In 2013 the Dragons broke several school records and finished with a list of accomplishments. Dillon led the team to 28 wins in her 10th season with the Dragons — a program record for both men and women. Two of those victories were wins over Southeastern Conference schools, the University of Florida and Auburn University. The victories against those schools marked the first times Drexel had defeated a school from the SEC.
Along with setting a new record for victories in a season, the Dragons also captured the 2013 Women’s National Invitation Tournament championship thanks to a narrow 46-43 victory over The University of Utah. The victory made Drexel the first Division I women’s basketball team in Philadelphia ever to claim a postseason tournament title.
Along with team accomplishments, the Dragons had several standout performers throughout the season. Wootton stepped up her production from her junior year by improving her scoring by almost five points per game. Wootton averaged 12 points per game, and at the end of the season, she became the 21st player to join the 1,000 point club at Drexel. Her 16 points in the championship game gave her 1,003 points to finish her career. Wootton’s play improved both offensively and defensively as she became more of a force for the Dragons in the paint, especially after Jones went down with an injury.
Mershon had a season for the ages for the Dragons. She was named the WNIT Most Valuable Player and was a First-Team All-CAA selection. Mershon’s 19.4 points per game were good for second in the CAA and 25th in the nation. But especially during the WNIT, she elevated her game and scoring, averaging 21.2 points per game. As a result of her improved scoring performance, she became the first Dragon to score 100 points in a single postseason tournament.
Dillon came into the year looking to Mershon to lead the team, and she did so fearlessly. Mershon was a constant force for the Dragons in every single game. Whenever the Dragons needed a play to be made, she was there to make a play. Her versatility allowed her to be both a scorer and a provider on the court. In the 2012 season, Mershon was everything the Dragons needed her to be, as she led the team in points, rebounds and assists. She also became the first player in Drexel history to reach 1,600 points and 300 career assists. Mershon’s leadership was noticed not only by her team but also by her peers and other coaches around the CAA. She was the recipient of the CAA’s Dean Ehlers Leadership Award. Mershon deserves her place among the best to ever play at Drexel.
While there will be no Mershon, Wootton or defensive stopper Johnson-Allen running on the court this season for the Dragons, they will still have a strong leader in Dillon to guide them in a new era of Drexel basketball. Before the 2013-14 season opens and we get a chance to see what this new team can do, we can’t forget just how unique and special last year was. The 2012-13 Dragons were champions through and through. We were fortunate to watch them play, and they will not be forgotten any time soon.