NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The Saint Mary's Department of Athletics inducted five individuals and two teams to the Hall of Fame in a ceremony held in Angela Athletic & Wellness Complex on Friday, May 31.
Sister Louisita Welsh, CSC, former Director of Student Activities and Dean of Students Mary Ellen Smith, Maureen O'Brien Kohler '81, Megan Gray Piper '08, and Alison Kessler '08 along with the 2002 tennis team and the 2003 golf team all joined the ranks of hall of fame inductees in conjunction with the College's annual Reunion Weekend festivities.
Sister Louisita Welsh started out as the basketball and volleyball team chaplain in the early 2000s, but she quickly became part of the athletic staff and served as the departmental chaplain. She attended weekly staff meetings and attended most home Belles athletic events. Sister Lou led pre-game prayers with both spirit and humor in her role as chaplain. She has been instrumental to connecting the Department of Athletics with the Convent as she serves as a liaison for many volunteering opportunities for Saint Mary's student-athletes.
Mary Ellen Smith, who passed away in 2015, first served as director of student activities from 1986-1989 and was then dean of students from 1989-1992. A true advocate for student-athletes, she traveled with teams, helped rive vans on spring trips, often served as the official scorer for softball games, and always attended the annual athletic award dinners. It was during her tenure that the athletic department was given permission to use the College parking lots and fields to offer football parking for all home Notre Dame games. She spearheaded the transition from the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) to the ranks of NCAA (National Collegiate Athletics Association) Division III.
Maureen O'Brien Kohler was a competitor who excelled in both basketball and tennis for the Belles. In basketball, she was a four-year letter winner and senior captain of the squad. She was often noted in The Observer as being the spark her team needed, whether that was hitting key free throws, coming up with a big steal, or providing stabilizing leadership on the court. On the tennis court, she was a key part of the 1977-78 Saint Mary's team which won the Midwest Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) Division III Championship. That same tennis team advanced to the AIAW National Championships and finished 15th in the nation. In her four years, her tennis teams never finished lower than fourth out of 17 teams in their division.
Megan Gray Piper became the first cross country runner in program history to come in first place at a race as she turned in the first 5k below 19 minutes in the history of Belles cross country. She earned First Team All-MIAA honors as both a junior and a senior. In those same seasons, she was an All-Region performer at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional race. She finished in tenth place at the regional race as a junior to earn a spot in the NCAA Division III Championship race. A year later, she took fourth place at the regional competition and earned her second NCAA Championship race spot. Her 5k and 6k times both stand as program records 11 years after her final race for the Belles.
Alison Kessler scored a total of 1,628 points for the basketball program which set the Saint Mary’s record for points in a career that still stands today. A three-time All-MIAA First Team honoree, she led the MIAA in scoring average as both a junior and a senior. She was just the third player in MIAA history to average more than 20 points per game in consecutive seasons while leading the conference in scoring average. She was the first player in conference history to score more than a thousand points in league play. An MIAA Most Valuable Player and Great Lakes Regional Player of the Year as a senior, she was the first basketball player in Saint Mary’s history to earn All-American honors since the College became an NCAA Division III member in 1990.
The 2001-2002 tennis team posted a 17-6 overall record with three of those losses coming at the hand of NCAA Division I programs early in the season. The team won their second consecutive MIAA Championship after they defeated every MIAA opponent by a 6-3 or better score that spring, led by First Team All-MIAA performances by Annie Knish and Jeannie Knish and a Second Team All-MIAA effort by Kaitlin Cutler. Their 7-0 conference record saw the Belles defeat their opponents by a combined margin of 53-10. The team became the first program in department history to earn a berth to the NCAA Division III Championships as only 26 teams made the field in 2002 and the conference did not have an automatic qualifying bid.
Tennis team members inducted include Laura Blume Doverspike, Leah Gillock Gonzalez, Katie Lea Harrison, Jeanni Knish Hobbins, Lindsay Anne Lee, Katie Harthen Leonard, Annie Gallagher Milewski, Annie Knish Mitchell, Elisa Anne Ryan, Kaitlin Cutler Silliven, Vanessa Bejec Silverio, Angela Sandner Stensrud, Courtney Smitham Sturgess, Miranda Mikulyuk VanNevel, Courtney Elbing Watson, Kris Spriggle Werth, and head coach Dee Stevenson
The 2002-2003 golf team captured the program's first MIAA Championship after winning five consecutive conference rounds of competition. The team had four of their team members earn All-MIAA honors for the first time as Stefanie Simmerman and Megan Mattia were both First Team honorees while Liz Hanlon and Chrissy Dunham garnered Second Team distinctions. The Belles took team titles at both the Manchester Invitational and the Hope Invitational in the spring season before becoming the first team in MIAA women's golf history to earn a berth into the NCAA Division III Championship. The team made the most of that inaugural opportunity as Saint Mary's finished fourth overall in the 2003 NCAA Championship. Stefanie Simmerman won the individual title and four of the team's five players finished in the top 50 in the field.
Golf team members inducted include Julia Adams, Nicole Bellino, Kim Dunham, Kirsten Fantom, Kara Harms, Molly Lee, Megan Mattia, Kristina Maurer, Stefanie Simmerman McGinnis, Christina Dunham Openlander, Elizabeth Hanlon Sands, Erin McQueen Young, Jaclyn Thompson Waguespack, and head coach Mark Hamilton
The Saint Mary's Department of Athletics Hall of Fame is now comprised of 37 individuals and six teams. Any friend or alumna of Saint Mary's may nominate a former student-athlete, past team, or former coach/administrator for consideration for the Hall of Fame.