Twenty-five years ago, the Gallaudet University women’s basketball team (24-6) won the Capital Athletic Conference championship and advanced to the third round – the Sweet Sixteen – of the NCAA Division III tournament at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Their success has inspired generations of deaf girls and women, and two books were written about them: Winning Looks Like This: A Season with the Women’s Basketball Team at Gallaudet, the World’s Only Deaf University, by Wayne Coffey (actually about the following year’s team), and Deaf Girls Rule, by Wendy Tiefenbacher. 

The team was coached by Kathryn “Kitty” Baldridge, then in her 22nd season. Two of its players – Touria Ouahid Boren, ’01 & G-’08, and Ronda Jo Miller Donatucci, ’02, – are members of the Gallaudet University Athletics Hall of Fame, as is Baldridge. Dalina Schwartz, the daughter of 1998-1999 team member Shanada Johnson Schwartz, ’02 & G-’04, is a first-year player on the current team.  

The 1998-1999 team and its coaches and staff, sans player Ronda Kopatich-Johnson, ’04; assistant coach Ben Baylor, and team interpreter Mary Thumann, G-’06 & PhD ’10, who have passed away, returned to Kendall Green February 2-3 for an emotional reunion. The weekend’s festivities began with a testimonial banquet on Friday evening. On Saturday, the team held a shoot-around in the morning. They were the guests of honor at the women’s basketball game in the afternoon. Their gathering concluded Saturday evening with dinner at La Cosecha, a nearby Latine marketplace in the Union Market District that did not even exist during their time.  

We were inspired by the Sweet Sixteen team 25 years ago and honored by their presence last weekend. Congratulations to them on reaching this milestone! 

Thanks to alumna and retiree Carlene Thumann-Prezioso, ’80 & G-’84, for providing additional context. Photographs courtesy of Bruce Saperstein, ’10, Athletic Communications Coordinator.

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