Ivy Leaf - Spring 2001
Lady Cougars Capture Conference Title
The 2000-01 season was one of many 'firsts' for the Penn State Altoona women's basketball team: it was the first year the team played under new head coach John Nardozza, and it was the first time they captured the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference (AMCC) title.
In only their second year of play in the AMCC, the Lady Cougars finished the year with a 19-8 season record, a 13-2 conference record, and an undefeated 10-0 record at home in the Adler Athletic Complex.
"We set one of our goals at the beginning of the year to be undefeated at home, which we accomplished," said Coach Nardozza. "We also set our goal to win 15 games, and we won 19."
The victory was especially sweet as he completed his first year as head coach at the College.
"I knew we could do well in our conference but I also knew that we had to get through our playoff games," Nardozza said. "I never dreamed we'd end up doing as well as we did."
Nardozza and the team members were honored with a reception and awards ceremony on campus following their victory; they received a championship plaque and one of their original game balls that had been decorated with their record, roster, and AMCC championship. Team members were presented with individual medals with the championship inscription, and the athletic department unveiled a championship banner that will be hung in the Adler gymnasium. Penn State Altoona CEO and Dean, Dr. William Cale, Jr., also remarked how proud he was of the vast improvements the team has made since joining NCAA Division III three years ago.
Adding to the success of this year's season, Penn State Altoona was also well-represented in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference's All-Conference Basketball Team. Three Lady Cougars were named to the team, including Jill Klinar, a freshman from Ventia (Pa.); Kristen Toomey, a sophomore from Altoona; and Heather Mielnik, a junior from Altoona.
Klinar, a graduate of Peters Township High School, was named to the first team and was awarded Newcomer of the Year honors. She averaged 14.9 points per game and had 72 steals on the season with an average of 2.8 steals per game. Klinar was also the team's high scorer with 387 points.
Toomey was named to the conference second team, averaging 13.4 points per game and shooting 73 percent from the line. She is a graduate of Bishop Guilfoyle High School, Altoona.
All-conference team honorable mention honors were given to Mielnik, a graduate of Altoona Area High School. She averaged 12.7 points per game and led the Lady Cougars in rebounding, averaging 8.4 rebounds per game.
Nardozza described his first year as head coach as fantastic, noting that the team accomplished all of the goals it set at the beginning of the year and had a lot of chemistry on the court.
The team also pulled together defensively, which he sees as one of the key contributing factors in its winning season.
"We played a lot more pressure defense and shot more three-point shots than we ever had before, and overall we scored more points per game. Our games were definitely more high-intensity, and our full-court practice drills helped us a lot."
Nardozza succeeded Diana Krull, who guided the Lady Cougars' program for six seasons. Under her leadership, they advanced to NCAA Division III three years ago from junior college division and progressed from a 5-18 record in 1998-99 to a 13-11 season in 1999-2000, the first year they were eligible for conference play. The team advanced to the semi-final round in AMCC conference play before losing to eventual conference champion Frostburg State.
Regarding the team's AMCC championship victory, Toomey said she had such a great feeling when the buzzer sounded that ended the game.
"Penn State Behrend was always the team to beat, and that was the best feeling at the end of the game, just knowing it's not Penn State Behrend anymore, it's Penn State Altoona now."