The women’s basketball games the Bucknell community enjoys today actually represent a long history of women athletic programs supported by the University. In 1895, a group of women students from the University at Lewisburg (the original name of Bucknell University) started an athletic program that has become an essential part of the Bucknell Bison organization in the past 124 years: a women’s basketball team. The original members of the women’s team were Mary B. Harris, Mary Moore Wolfe (Captain), Anna Kate Goddard, Nellie Taylor, Anna May Gilchrist, Mary Evans Chambers, Alice J. Lillibridge, Henrietta Allen, and Margaret A. Thomas. Their uniforms were a loose black suits with voluminous skirts that literally swept the floor. They did not have any outside games with other universities. Instead, they competed against themselves, class against class, or playing against the Female Institute women’s team, which were part of a separate branch of the University at the time.
The collegiate women’s team remained an intramural athletic activity until the 1973-1974 season, when Bucknell women’s basketball took the floor as a varsity sport. This varsity endorsement most likely arose from the passing of Title IX in 1972, a law that states “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” As a result, women’s basketball was brought to the same status as men’s basketball, and the women ended their first official season with a 3-3 record. Since that time, the size, caliber, and success of the women’s basketball team and playing schedule has increased considerably.
Women’s basketball joined the Patriot League in the 1990-91 season when the Patriot League became an all-sport conference, sponsoring 22 sports, 11 for women and 11 for men. The team has prospered within this league, most prominently under current head coach, Aaron Roussell. Since joining the Bison team in 2013, Roussell’s team has broken the University’s record for wins for a single season (27-6 in 2016-2017), had the first Patriot League title and NCAA appearance (2017) since 2008, the first WNIT victory in Patriot League history (2016), and three straight national postseason appearances (NCAA – 2017, WNIT – 2016 and 2018). Over the past three seasons, the team has had a 48-6 record in the league overall.
The 2018-2019 season has continued in the same fashion, with more games to come and greater chances to improve. Bucknell’s current seniors—Rachel Dumiak, Kyi English, Maegan Mikkelsen, Kaitlyn Slagus, and Kate Walker—have the most wins as an individual graduating class in program history, improving to 93-28 during their impressive careers with the Bison. The Bison seniors need seven more wins to break the Patriot League record of 99 set by Army West Point’s 2016 graduating class, and I encourage everyone to go out and support them in this goal as they continue the 2019 season!