Legacy volleyball players to be celebrated at Homecoming
Former players and coaches from the golden era of Pacific volleyball will be honored when they return to campus for a reunion Oct. 14-16 during Homecoming and Family Weekend.
Pacific’s volleyball program won two national titles and advanced to the national semifinals seven additional times in the 80s and 90s.
The returning players will be honored at several events beginning Friday, Oct. 14 at the Orange & Black Ball. The following day, the group will tour athletics facilities and then be recognized during the noon volleyball match against defending West Coast Conference champion Brigham Young University.
A special focus will be on players from the nine teams that finished among the top four in the nation. The final four banners will be reposted in the Alex G. Spanos Center, joining the banners that already honor the national championship teams from 1985 and 1986.
A private post-match reception with the 2022 team will be held at the Eve Zimmerman Tennis Center.
Plans for a reunion were led by four former players: Cathy Lumb Edwards ’84, Leona (Bielefeld) Sublett ’89, Melanie (Beckenhauer) Heller ’91, and Danielle (Shinn) Hardcastle ’01.
"The response from former players about the chance to return is quite frankly phenomenal," said Edwards. "It has become clear it will be one of those moments that you won't want to miss."
The idea for a reunion developed last spring when large groups of alumni returned for the dedication of the Stagg Memorial Football Plaza and special events honoring former baseball players at Klein Family Field.
"The impact of the events resonated with me, and I thought we should do something similar for volleyball,” said Sublett, who played from 1985 to 1988. “We remain a tight group and keep in touch to chat about volleyball final fours and other items. When we started talking about coming back to campus as a group, it was almost a given."
The reunion holds special meaning for Edwards, Heller and Sublett whose daughters are on the current Tiger team.
"I look forward to introducing my daughter to the women who paved the way, building volleyball into the most storied athletics program at Pacific," said Edwards, who played from 1980 to 1983.
Before the NCAA, women's sports and national championships were organized by the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women. Pacific developed one of the top programs in the nation under coach Terry Liskevych, finishing fourth in 1979 and second in 1980.
In 1981, the NCAA started women's championships and Pacific switched to the new organization. The Tigers were in the field every year for the first 24 seasons. In the first NCAA championship in 1981, Pacific was one of the final four teams.
The program went to the final four again in 1983 and 1984. After Liskevych left to coach the U.S. Olympic team, John Dunning took over. Pacific won the national championship in 1985 and 1986 and remained a fixture in the NCAA field for the next 18 years.
"We really respected and cared about each other, and we didn't want to settle for anything less than reaching the Final Four," said Heller, a member of the 1990 team that advanced to the final four. "There was always an expectation and desire to be successful and compete. Nothing was taken for granted."
Among those planning to attend the reunion are Dunning and several All-Americans: Heller, Kristin (Fifer) Ayers, Eileen Dempster Howard, Julie Maginot-Fahy, Jayne McHugh and Elsa Stegmann.
"I sense the excitement to see each other again," said Heller. "Many of us haven't seen each other or gotten together in several years, but also, many want to meet the new generation of Tigers and see the new energy and talent."
For Hardcastle, who played for the 1999 team that advanced to the final four, the alumni connection sets Pacific apart.
“They paved the way and made it known that the expectation level was still high. We always wanted to win, but knowing we were part of something bigger was truly special," she said.
Added Sublett: "I think this generation of Pacific volleyball players feels the same connection between coaches and players that we felt. I think we were surprised that our daughters would want to come here, but I know my daughter felt at home at Pacific as soon as she walked on campus."
Admission to the volleyball contest Saturday, Oct. 15 is free for alumni registered for Homecoming and Family Weekend. Registration is open through Oct. 1.