Jan 12, 2017
From the Desk of Al Bean: 50 Years of Women's Athletics at USM
Imagine if you can, a world where young girls and women are not participating in athletics or organized sports. It seems even strange to consider today knowing what we know about the value of athletic participation. As we celebrate 50 years of women’s sports at USM there is much to be thankful for and so many wonderful accomplishments that are well documented. Many of those great moments in USM history happened in championship competitions while others have resulted from the impact that so many outstanding graduates have had in their chosen profession, whether it be in education as a teacher and coach or in leadership roles across all of the professions and in public service.
Are you an alumnae of one of USM's women's intercollegiate teams? Register for our February 4 event!
USM believed in the value of women participating in sports long before Title IX was enacted. With Richard A. “Doc” Costello leading the department as athletic director, he had the foresight to hire Paula Hodgdon as a full-time staff member with a joint appointment in Athletics and Education. Part of Paula’s role, along with teaching in the College of Education, was to initiate women’s sports at USM. It started with field hockey in the fall of 1967, followed by basketball that same winter and then expanded with lacrosse in the spring of 1972, all coached by Hodgdon, widely recognized as a pioneer in women’s sports. Softball came next in the spring of 1975 and others have followed to build a robust, well-rounded program. The program has now expanded to include 11 intercollegiate teams for women with an equal number of men and women participating each year.
Hodgdon’s Huskies came up big as they knocked off Salem State on their home turf and then Elizabethtown to punch their ticket to the NCAA Final Four. I was fortunate to make both trips and share in the excitement of the Huskies victories and their true joy in qualifying for the Final Four. USM represented itself well in the Final Four but lost to Division II Bloomsburg University 2-0. Bloomsburg went on to win the national championship that year that year at William Smith. That experience, the first by a USM team in NCAA Final Four play, set the bar for the entire program, both men and women alike. USM was officially on the NCAA map and has only made their star larger.
In recent years, track has taken center stage as Coach George Towle’s indoor teams have won 16 consecutive Little East Conference and New England Alliance championships while the outdoor team has captured 17 consecutive Little East Conference titles. In 2015-2016 Peyton Dostie became the Huskies first female national champion, winning the pentathlon at the NCAA Indoor National Championship. In 2014 – 2015, Dostie earned All-American honors in the 400-meter hurdles finishing second at the outdoor meet. In addition to Dostie, there has been countless NCAA national qualifiers and many tremendous performers in the sport of track.