I MMA C U L ATA U N I V E R S I T Y
My sophomore year was the real break-through for the team. We had gone 17-0 by the end of
the regular season. The members of that ’72 team included two seniors, Sue O’Grady and Pat
Opila; three juniors, Janet Ruch, Maureen Mooney, and Betty Hoffman; three sophomores,
Denise Conway, Janet Young, and me; and three freshmen, Rene Muth, Judy Marra, and
ll of us, with the exceptions of Janet Young, who came from
York Catholic, and Maureen Mooney, who came from St.
Hubert’s in the Northeast, were from Delaware County.
Maureen Stuhlman and I had gone to O’Hara; Denise, Janet
Ruch, Sue, Pat, and Betty Ann went to Archbishop Prendergast; and Rene
and Judy went to high school at Villa Maria Academy. These last two we
We had a lot in common. All of us were Catholics. Most of us came
from working-class families. At that time, parents raised their daughters
to work together toward a shared goal. This wasn’t about individual
scholarships or personal fame. It was truly about the team.
We were constantly running sprints in practice. And we even set up
our own Kangaroo Court, with Maureen Mooney acting as its presiding
judge. Players fined one another – one cent for a missed outside shot; two
cents for a missed inside shot; five cents for missing a foul; ten cents for
a breakaway; and one dollar for fouling out. We got a penny credit for a
steal or an offensive rebound. We agreed that this system of “rewards and
punishments” made us much more efficient!
The newly-formed Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women
was holding its first-ever meeting in 1972, and it issued us an invitation
to participate. We had seen the men play in the NIT and the NCAA
tournaments, and we knew all about the championships that UCLA had
won under John Wooden.
But a women’s post-season tournament? We had no idea we were
about to become pioneers! The first time we heard about it, Cathy told
us, “Ladies, I want you to save your cuts for class because we’re going to
need them when we go to the Regionals.” We looked at one another. “Does
she know where she is? You don’t cut class here. The Sisters would be all
over us!” (Meanwhile, the Sisters whispered among themselves,
The Mid-Atlantic Regional was a 16-team single elimination event
that was held in Towson, Md. in 1972. Kids today fly all over during the
summer to participate in travel team tournaments. To us, this was really
cool. We were honestly thrilled. We were going to stay at a Holiday Inn,
and we’d never done that before.
We sat around planning who was going to be in what car, and what we
were going to do when we got there. We had a smoking car and a non-
smoking car, back in the days when more people smoked – something we
would never do today.
The team was finally off to Towson, Md. for the Regional Tournament.
It looked as if it might be a short stay at Towson. Our second game in
that Regional was against East Stroudsburg, which was seeded second
in the tournament. One of our Macs was in the locker room and heard
a Stroudsburg player say, “We’re going to kill this Immaculata team!”
Prophetic words? I don’t think so! But at least Stroudsburg and West
Chester knew who we were. The others seemed to think we were from
some unknown place on the planet called Immaculata State College.
Ours was a very close-knit college. There were 76 nuns on campus, and
more than a few of them drove to that game. I knew they were coming,
but I didn’t know why they were late. The game had already started when
the gym door opened and they processed in, working their beads. The
game action came to a halt. “What is that?” one of the Stroudsburg players
asked me. “That’s our secret weapon,” I told her. “And they are a large
part of why you will probably lose today.” I guess they had no idea we had
a higher power on our side that day. We won, 54-48. The Sisters’ prayers
really helped us.
We had a prayer of our own, too, which we said before every game. It
O God of Players
, and it went like this:
O God of Players, hear our prayer
To play this game and play it fair,
To conquer, win, but if to lose,
Not to revile, nor to abuse.
But with understanding, start again.
Give us strength, O Lord. Amen.
We had faith in God and in one another.
I have only recently learned that this prayer was composed by my high
school basketball coach at Cardinal O’Hara, Mary Ann Nespoli. Mrs.
Nespoli wrote this prayer in the late ’50s, and prayed it with her teams at
Notre Dame High School in Moylan, Pennsylvania. She taught it to us at
O’Hara in the late ’60s, and we have since spread the word.
In the semi-finals of the Regionals, we were up against Towson State,
the third-seeded team, at center court, in their home gym. What do you
suppose the odds were? It was a very emotional game. Earlier that week,
one of the Towson players had been killed in a car accident, so they were
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