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December Edition: From Hilltoppers to Huskies - Doc Costello, Gary Fifield, and Huskies' Women's Basketball

December Edition: From Hilltoppers to Huskies - Doc Costello, Gary Fifield,  and Huskies' Women's Basketball

December Edition: From Huskies to Hilltoppers Presented by UCU

With a longstanding tradition of women's athletics, some of the earliest incarnations of the University of Southern Maine supported women in sport. Starting with interclass basketball in 1918 and culminating with the official creation of women's intercollegiate athletics in 1967, for 50 years, USM, and its predecessor schools, have supported women's participation in athletics.

In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Women's Intercollegiate Athletics, the Huskies' Department of Athletics will highlight some of its top student-athletes, coaches and administrators, past and present.  In addition to the varied profiles, the USM Department of Athletics will host a celebration of its 50 Years of Women's Intercollegiate Athletics on Saturday, February 4 to coincide with the women's basketball and ice hockey games at the Costello Sports Complex.  Following the games, USM will host a special event at Spire 29 in Gorham (6:00 p.m.).


Dr. Richard A. Costello: Administrator, Coach, Pioneer

After joining the faculty and staff of Gorham State Teachers' College in 1953, Dr. Richard A. Costello, affectionately referred to as Doc during his years in Gorham, was known by many titles: mentor, coach, administrator and innovator.  However, regardless of which role Dr. Costello was filling throughout his career at Gorham State through the creation of the University of Southern Maine, Doc can easily be known as the architect of the Huskies' athletics program and in turn one of the main reasons for the creation of women's athletics. 

Named the first athletic director in the University's history in 1955, Doc was a staunch supporter of women's athletics long before the creation of Title IX, the federal rule that requires educational institutions to maintain policies, practices and programs that do not discriminate against anyone on the basis of gender.  One of Doc's first pivotal moves in support of athletics was the hiring of Paula Hodgdon and tasking her with the stewardship of women's athletics on the intercollegiate level.  During his years as athletic director, Doc oversaw the growth of the overall Huskies' athletics program, USM's transition to the NCAA, and the creation of the Little East Conference, serving as the conference's first commissioner. 

Wearing many hats during his career as USM, Doc served as head coach of many of the Huskies' teams in the early years, and was the head coach of the men's basketball team from 1955-1971.  Doc returned to the sidelines of Hill Gymnasium in 1977, but this time as the head coach of the Huskies' women's basketball team.  During his 10 seasons with the Huskies (1977-1987), Doc helped establish one of the most successful and nationally-regarded Division III women's basketball programs. With his success at the helm of the women's basketball program, Doc was only NCAA coach in the nation's history to win at least 200 games with each of the men's (207-144) and women's (213-67) teams.

Coach Costello receiving recognition for his 200th career win with the Huskies' women's basketball team.  Costello is the only coach to have at least 200 wins with both a men's and women's team. 

In Doc's first season with the Husky women, Coach Costello turned a team that had gone 4-13 the season before (1976-77) into an 18-8 team in 1977-78. In his fourth season (1980-81), Doc led the Huskies to its first 20-win season (23-7), which started a streak of 31-consecutive seasons of 20 or more wins – an NCAA Division III record. 

Recruiting some of the top players in NCAA Division III women's basketball, Doc's teams led by former All-Americans like Diana Duff and Maureen Burchill, competed in the national championship tournament for both the NAIA and then the NCAA.

And in the 1986-1987 season, the first season of the Little East Conference and the final season of Doc's coaching career, the legendary coach, administrator and pioneer for women's athletics at USM, led the Huskies to the 1987 Championship, the first of 20 Little East Conference titles for the perennially successful Huskies, with a 63-55 win over Eastern Connecticut State, establishing a tradition of excellence.  

 The 1987 USM women's basketball team captured the first Little East Conference Championship trophy - the first of 20 for the Huskies

 


Gary Fifield: 27 Seasons, Legendary Status

Coach Gary Fifield took over the Huskies' women's basketball program for the 1987-88 season and continued to build upon the solid foundation created by Doc Costello and built one of the very best programs in the nation over his 27-season coaching career. 

By numbers alone Gary Fifield's career at USM from 1987 through 2015 is remarkable:

  • 660 wins and a career 82.8 winning percentage

  • 26 NCAA tournament appearances

  • Five Final Fours

  • 10 Elite Eights; 16 Sweet Sixteens

  • 20 Little East Conference tournament championships

  • 21 Little East Conference regular season championships

In his 27 seasons on the sidelines, Fifield led a USM women's basketball program that has dominated its Little East Conference competition posting a staggering 322-48 (87.0 winning percentage) overall record against its LEC opponents in regular season play since the league's inception.  And with 20 of the available 28 LEC championship titles calling Gorham, Maine home, the Huskies and Fifield were equally as dominant in conference tournament action with a record of 61-9 (87.1 winning percentage). 

Retired head coach Gary Fifield in action during the 2013 Little East Conference Championship game. 

Upon his retirement in 2015, Fifield's earned nearly every accolade a coach could achieve.  The 2005 WBCA NCAA Division III Coach of the Year, is a 14-time Little East Conference Coach of the Year and a five-time WBCA District 1 Coach of the Year. Additionally, Fifield is in numerous multiple hall of fame entities, including the New England Basketball, Maine Sports, Little East Conference and Husky Hall of Fame.

With each honor, Fifield was quick to share it with those who shared the court a with him, "Each award, win and achievement was due in part to the tireless work ethic and commitment of the coaches and players I had around me." 

During his 27 seasons, Fifield's student-athletes achieved tremendous individual success as he has had ten different players receive All-American or honorable mention All-American honors on 14 occasions.  In 2007, two-time WBCA All-American and D3hoops.com National Player of the Year Ashley Marble was named the ESPN the Magazine/CoSIDA Academic All-America of the Year for the College Division.

Fifield left a lasting mark on Huskies' athletics, and in return for his nearly 30 years on the sidelines at Hill Gymnasium, the commitment and sacrifice, for the numerous championships, memorable games and moments, Southern Maine thanked Fifield for his service last season renaming the court in his honor on December 1, 2015.

USM President Glenn Cummings speaks during the Fifield Court dedication. 

 


Huskies' Women's Basketball: A Tradition of Excellence

One of the original three sports established when USM began its support for intercollegiate competition for women, Huskies' women's basketball has had tremendous success due in large part to the numerous outstanding student-athletes that have populated its roster. 

Its record books are full of all-conference, all-region and All-American players who have helped create the rich tradition of excellence synonymous with USM women's basketball.  The Huskies' first All-American, Maureen Burchill (1981-1985), is also the first two-time All-American honoree (1982-1983, 1984-1985), and still holds nearly every scoring record, finishing her illustrious career with a remarkable 2,357 career points.  The high-scoring guard averaged an outstanding 19.3 points per game, including a school-record 47-point performance against Western New England in a 104-89 win on February 26, 1985 in the NAIA National Championship.

USM Women's Basketball has made five trips to the NCAA Division III Final Four (1988, 1998, 2000, 2005, and 2006). 

The Huskies' second All-American, Diana Duff, helped lead USM to the first of its 20 Little East Conference titles in 1987.  Duff, who finished her career (1985-1989) with 1170 points, 659 rebounds, and 150 blocked shots, shot 42.4 percent from three-point range. Duff was named the LEC Player of the Year in 1988, and helped USM to the three LEC regular season and tournament titles and subsequent NCAA tournament berths.

Highly recruited out of nearby Biddeford HS, the Huskies' third All-American Laura Pate transferred to USM after starting her intercollegiate career at St. Anselm College with a basketball scholarship.  In her two seasons with the Huskies, Pate helped her team to a pair of LEC titles, and was a two-time first team All-LEC selection.  In her final season (1990-91), Pate was not only named the ECAC Player of the Year, but she was named an All-American. 

Three-time LEC Player of the Year (1996, 1997, 1998), Joanna Brown, became the Huskies' fourth All-American in 1998.  Brown's four seasons with the Huskies (1994-1998) were remarkable.  With Brown leading the way, USM captured four consecutive Little East Conference titles with a record of 47-3 against LEC opponents and 102-15 overall record.

Broadcast crews on hand at Hill Gym for the 1998 Division III Final Four hosted by USM

The third leading scorer in total points (1845) and second leading scorer by average (16.6 points per game), Brown led the Huskies to four straight appearance in the NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament, including the 1998 Final Four, which was hosted at USM's very own Hill Gymnasium.

The Huskies' fifth and most recent All-American (2006, 2007), Ashley Marble, is arguably the most decorated women's basketball player to wear a Southern Maine jersey.  During her career, USM captured four LEC titles, made four trips to the NCAA National Championship Tournament, and played in back-to-back Final Fours (2005, 2006) finishing as the national runners up in 2006. 

The first USM women's basketball player to surpass both 1000 career points and 1000 career rebounds, Marble finished her career with 1981 career points and a school-record 1157 career rebounds, helping USM to an overall record of  119-10 from 2003-2007, including a record of 55-1 against LEC opponents.  In her final season, Marble had more than 20 double-doubles and averaged 23.1 points and 12.2 rebounds per game, earning her second All-American nod while being named the D3hoops.com Division III Player of the Year, and D3News Player of the Year honors.

Marble's talents on the court were equal to her talents in the classroom, as she was also a first team Academic All-American and was named the Academic All-American of the Year for the College Division in 2007. 

Husky All Americans Ashley Marble (left) and Joanna Brown (right) were each named the Little East Conference player of the year on three occassions. 

It's clear that with such a sustained history of success, USM women's basketball has had tremendous, athletically-gifted and talented student-athletes wear its uniform; however, the many Husky alumnae who have played basketball for Southern Maine have also displayed tremendous leadership during their playing careers and beyond.

Nine former Husky women's basketball players have earned the Paula D. Hodgdon Leadership Award, presented annually since 1994, to the female student-athlete who exemplifies the qualities of Paula Hodgdon, a former member of the faculty and athletic department staff, who was a pioneer in women's athletics. The recipient must have played at least three years on an intercollegiate athletic team, must have been a valuable member of that team, and is a woman who displays loyalty, dedication and commitment to the team, the sport and USM.  The award is selected by the Athletic Department coaches and staff.

And six USM WBB alumnae are former recipients of the Roland Wirths Memorial Award presented annually since 1980, and is given in honor of the former Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram  sportswriter who was a strong supporter of USM athletics. It is given to the deserving student-athlete who best exemplifies the characteristics of Wirths and his writing – the underdog, or athlete who is small in stature but not in their contributions or heart.

Nicole Garland '13 (left) and Stephanie Gallagher '15 (right) are the two most recent winners of the Paula D. Hodgdon and Roland Wirths Memorial Awards respectively.  Both Garland and Gallagher earned the honors at the end of their senior years. 

The Huskies' have also achieved academically with six Academic All-District citations in addition to Marble's Academic All-American achievements.

Beyond the court, numerous Huskies' have chosen to share their passion and talent for their sport by joining in the coaching ranks.  Former players like Julie Plant '00, Angela Santa Fe '11, Shannon Kynoch '08, Mandy King '98, Lindsey Welch '07 and many more have made successful careers for themselves in the coaching ranks. 

Plant, a member of the Huskies' 1998 and 2000 Final Four teams, is beginning her fourth season as head coach at Division II Saint Anselm after leading the Hawks to their first NCAA berth in several years in 2016.  Santa Fe, a member of the Huskies' 2006 Final Four team, has guided the Division III Regis Pride for the past three seasons capturing NECC crown the last three seasons. King, in her fifth season at Kean University, was a starting guard on the Huskies' 1998 Final Four team, while Welch is coaching at the high school level at Winslow (Winslow, Maine), leading the Raiders to the Class B semifinals last season earning KVAC Coach of the Year honors

Kynoch, a USM's 2005 and 2006 Final Four teams, is in her fourth season as head coach at Division II St. Michael's. An outstanding student-athlete during her time at USM, she was a four-year member of Southern Maine's SAAC, serving as president for her final two years, when she was also the school's representative to the Little East Conference's (LEC) SAAC. 

Kynoch earned the Husky Achievement Award, Paula D. Hodgdon Leadership Award, USM Outstanding Student Leader Award and William B. Wise Scholar-Athlete Award during her career. In five seasons with the Huskies, which included a medical redshirt year, Kynoch helped Southern Maine go 144-14 overall and 68-2 in LEC play, winning five regular-season crowns and four postseason championships while making five NCAA Tournament appearances. A captain in 2006-07, Kynoch's squad was the national runner-up in 2005-06 after also making a Final Four run in 2004-05. She compiled 706 points, 482 rebounds and 101 blocks in 117 career games. 

One of many former women's basketball players to join the coaching ranks, Shannon Kynoch (34) was an outstanding campus leader during her time as a student-athete at USM.  She played in two Final Fours. 

Among these outstanding young coaches is also former Husky guard Angel Elderkin '99, in her third season as the head coach of the Division I Appalachian State women's basketball team.  Like many of the Husky women's basketball alumnae, Elderkin enjoyed tremendous success in Gorham, helping USM to three Little East Conference championships and an outstanding 104-15 record over four seasons.  Reaching NCAA Division III Tournament all four seasons, Elderkin was a guard on the Huskies' 1998 Final Four team and played for a national championship in the Costello Sports Complex.  A two-time recipient of the William B. Wise Scholar-Athlete Award, and a three-year member of the Huskies' softball team, Elderkin was inducted into the New England Hall of Fame as a member of the 1997-98 Southern Maine basketball squad in 2004.

 Elderkin's coaching career is equally as impressive working as an assistant coach in basketball power conferences like the Southeastern Conference (SEC), Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and the Big East, including stops at LSU, Virginia, St. John's and Tennessee, serving on the staff of legendary women's basketball coach Pat Summitt.  In her two seasons with App State, Elderkin has moved the Mountaineers in the right direction with the Apps finishing third in the Sun Belt in scoring (67.7), second in free throw percentage (71.3) and made it a point of emphasis to crash the boards finishing tied for second in offensive rebounding and third in defensive rebounding.

Husky alumnae Angel Elderkin on the sidelines of Applachian State women's basketball. 

However, Elderkin's greatest impact to date in her young career as a coach is evident in her selection at the 2017 Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award.  Elderkin, who will receive the award at the 2017 Division I women's basketball Final Four, has bravely faced a cancer diagnosis and continued to lead her team from their Boone, N.C., campus, since being diagnosed with Stage III Endometrial (ovarian) cancer for which revealed last summer.  Elderkin has not missed a day of practice or a game while undergoing treatment, despite having to travel to Chapel Hill, N.C. for her therapy. 

Elderkin's strength and character, and courageous battle, have earned her the prestigious honor, but those around her, including the USM community, have learned from her perseverance. 

 

 

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