Saint Anselm celebrated the 40th anniversary of women’s athletics with an event in the west wing of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics on Feb. 11.
The first female athletic programs at Saint Anselm were established in 1976-77. That academic year, the college introduced women’s tennis, women’s basketball and women’s volleyball.
The program continued to expand in the 1980-81 academic year with the addition of women’s cross country, softball and women’s skiing. Hawk women’s soccer began four years later in the 1984-85 academic year.
The final three women’s athletic programs were added in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Women’s lacrosse was first offered at Saint Anselm in the 1999-2000 academic year, Hawk field hockey started in the 2001-02, and women’s ice hockey, the tenth and final program, was established in 2004-05.
Many key figures from throughout the history of Hawk women’s sports were present at the event held in NHIOP to celebrate the journey of Hawk women’s athletics.
Daron Montgomery, current Saint Anselm director of athletics, was the master of ceremonies. Dr. Steven DiSalvo, president of Saint Anselm College, was one of the first speakers. Dr. DiSalvo spoke to the crowd about the enthusiasm surrounding athletics, and how far the female programs in particular have come since the inception of Hawk women’s sports.
Julie Plant, head coach of women’s basketball, later talked about the role athletics plays from a coach’s perspective. She talked about the benefits of playing competitive sports, and she encouraged young women to take on leadership and transformational experiences.
Rose Mooney ’17, a captain on the 2016 Hawk field hockey squad, talked about her experience playing sports from the youth level all the way to this past year at Saint Anselm. Mooney told the crowd gathered that she played on predominantly male ice hockey teams growing up, and as one of the few girls on those teams, she felt there was a missing connection. She went on to say that she found those connections when she started playing women’s field hockey.
This past season, Hawk field hockey made it all the way to the NCAA Division II semifinals, falling in overtime 1-0 to LIU Post.
Mooney said that her experience with Hawk field hockey this past season “solidified those connections.”
Olivia Connly ’17 and Linda Connly ’87 were the next two individuals to speak about their student-athlete experiences. They both share a unique perspective because they are the first mother and daughter to both play sports at Saint Anselm.
Olivia Connly, who is currently a senior captain on Hawk women’s lacrosse, emphasized the sentiment of “playing for your teammates,” and she went on to explain that she wasn’t a member of “just another lacrosse team. This is a family.”
As a freshman in 2014, Connly was a part of the first Hawk women’s lacrosse team to earn an NCAA Division II playoff bid.
Olivia Connly’s mother Linda, who played basketball at Saint Anselm, echoed many of the same points that her daughter spoke about, especially the family atmosphere fostered by many teams. Linda Connly also spoke about how far women’s sports have come since she was a student-athlete at Saint Anselm.
Julie Ruppert, the current Northeast-10 Conference commissioner and the first female commissioner of an NCAA Division II conference, spoke next about how women’s athletics has grown on a conference and national level.
She gave a brief history of women’s athletics within the NE10, which began with women’s basketball becoming the first female sport in the conference in 1981. At that time, there were about 150 female student-athletes in the NE10. Today there are over 3000 female student-athletes in the conference who compete in 12 different sports for 143 different teams.
Dr. Jo-Ann Nester, former director of athletics at Saint Anselm, took the podium next to talk about Hawk women’s athletics from an AD’s perspective. Dr. Nester cited the establishment of Title IX in the late 1980s as a big reason why female athletics has grown as much as it has.
One of the reasons Title IX was created was to afford women the same opportunities that men have available to them, which includes the ability to compete in college sports.
Dr. Nester served as Hawk AD in two separate terms. Her first stint was from October 2009 until August 2011, and then she returned to the position in October 2013 and served through May 2014.
One of the biggest changes Dr. Nester made at Saint Anselm was adding athletic scholarships for all sports that qualified under NCAA policy.
Nester told The Crier that as the college added scholarships for some of the men’s programs “with Title IX and equity, we had to add as much money into the women’s programs, and so the women’s programs really benefited and got very strong because of that.”
This event commemorating the 40 years of women’s sports at Saint Anselm concluded with a slideshow featuring photographs of each women’s sports team from the early years to the present day.