Ithaca College is one of the most storied NCAA Division III athletic programs in the country, and one program in particular is set to celebrate an accomplishment that only two other Division III institutions can lay claim to. IC is in the midst of its 50th year of women's basketball on campus and only Elizabethtown College (88 years) and Frostburg State University (52 years) have participated in the sport for a longer period of time.
Since the inaugural season in 1966-67, Ithaca has amassed 723 victories, eighth-most all-time in Division III. To further expand upon the excellence of Bombers women's basketball, there have only been six losing seasons in program history, and Ithaca has compiled 20-plus wins in 14 of the past 19 years. In more recent history, the Bombers rank 11th nationally in winning percentage (.822) and 13th in wins over the past five seasons (133).
Ithaca's first year as a program resulted in the first and only undefeated season at 4-0, under the guidance of Hall of Fame coach, Iris Carnell. Carnell coached the Bombers for two seasons, and her name is forever attached to the women's senior athlete of the year award handed out at the conclusion of each school year.
Jean Lewis would step in as Ithaca's next coach in 1968-69 before another Hall of Famer, Doris Kostrinsky, took over the reins for six seasons, leading the Bombers to an overall record of 34-11. The Bombers were then under the guidance of Mary Connolly for three seasons (75-78) before Natalie Smith stepped in for the next seven years, racking up five seasons with at least 12 wins. From the 1985-86 season to 1998-99, Christine Pritchard patrolled Ithaca's sidelines and mentored Ithaca to four 20-plus winning seasons and the program's first trip to the NCAA Tournament in 1996-97. Jen Kroll bridged the gap between Pritchard and current head coach Dan Raymond in the 1999-2000 season and earned a 21-7 mark that year.
Now under Raymond, the Bombers have won 327 games and eight Empire 8 Conference titles. Ithaca has won 20 or more games in 11 of 15 seasons with Raymond running the program. All six of the Bombers' All-Americans have come under Raymond's watch.
"All I can say is how fortunate I feel to be to be a part of the tradition that is Ithaca College women's basketball," said Raymond. "All of those that have come before my time created a legacy that we are striving to live up to each and every day."
In the NCAA Tournament, Ithaca owns an overall record of 12-12. The program's first win came during the 1996-97 season against Binghamton University by a score of 73-66. After a three-year hiatus, the Bombers reappeared in the tournament and defeated the University of New England, 79-61, in 2000-01. The following season, the Bombers reached the Round of 16 for the first time, and have been a mainstay in the championship field since. After another trip to the "Sweet 16" in 2012-13, the Bombers improved on that run and reached the "Elite 8" in 2013-14, the furthest in school history.
There are 10 former players and coaches enshrined in Ithaca's Hall of Fame.
Testimonies from former players:
Kathleen Minich Parker '71: "I played for Ithaca from 1967-71 and was a captain for two season. Back then, we didn't play in both semesters and we played against local teams. It was a big deal when we traveled to Brockport because we wouldn't make it back to campus in time to eat in the dining hall. We only stayed overnight once when I played and that was during my senior year."
"During that time, we played with six players – two players were always on defense, two only played offense and the other two were rovers (played both ends). It wasn't until my junior year that the rules changed to five on five. Our uniforms were cotton blouses with a yellow collar and a light blue tunic over that. Our numbers were on pinnies and secured around our waist with a belt."
Roxane Aguilar Roberts '90: "Ithaca College was always a special place to me since my family was so involved with the school. I had such a great time at IC and made so many friends along the way. My husband also went to IC and competed on the cross country. I'm proud to say that I will always be a Bomber."
"On the basketball court, I was fortunate enough to play on four teams that won at least 10 games and reached the playoffs one season. It was great to play for coach Pritchard, as well as the assistant coaches that we had, who taught us a lot along the way. Some of our coaches, who were graduate assists, came from Division I programs and it was great to have them with us. We were some of the first successful teams that elevated the program to what it is now, and I'm so happy to see where the program is today."
Juliet Salazar '93: "I attended IC from 1989-93 and chose IC based on the exercise science program and the schedule that IC faced with athletics. I fell in love with the campus and program. We had a great recruiting class with Tiffany Shaffer, Jo Leiva, Karen Fisher, myself and Deanna Webb. We hit it off immediately as friends and had a great 1989-90 season.
"My freshman year was one of the best years of my life and it still is at age 45. My teammates became my best friends. It was also the year that led to me discovering how awesome IC really was as a school and as the athletic hub of CNY. The school was everything I dreamed it would be and I was so thankful I made the right choice in attending. I even loved my professors and my classes. My career was cut short due to two knee injuries but I still remained friends with my teammates."
Margo McGowan Barrows '98: "Some of my favorite memories at IC happened on the basketball court and softball field, the friendship made during those years were awesome. One of my favorite memories was beating Binghamton University in the first round of NCAA's after being down by 16 points."
"I love coming back to IC each year for the basketball alumni game. The current coach was at Cortland during my playing days and he has made it wonderful for all alum to come back. We were extremely competitive when I played, each year we accomplished something new. IC was a great place to play and learn, the professors, trainers, coaches and staff made my four years at IC unforgettable. I am still in contact with Jenn Colby, Kristi Clark, Shari Wilkins, Kelly Brady, Kelly Brown, and a few others."
Ally Mnich '15: "My best basketball memory was our postseason run my junior year. Not only did we host both the E8's and the NCAA tournament at our brand new gym, but we went into the postseason really hot. I remember the selection show when we saw we would have to go through Amherst to get to the championship and beating them in the Sweet Sixteen."
"I was the first class to play in the new gym and really got to appreciate the difference in playing space. I was also on a team that was super successful and got to play with some of the best players in school history. I love this program and really hope everyone gets to have the same experience I did because it really is something special. I definitely still keep in touch with a lot of my teammates. We spent so much time over the past four years together, they are basically family."
Originally published in Athletics: Fifty Years of Women's Basketball at Ithaca College