During the early days of women students on campus, the all-male corps of cadets vehemently opposed the admission of women to the university and delighted in tossing water from their barracks windows at all passing female students. Dodging that water, one female student of the time asserted, led to the formation of a basketball team: “We became exceedingly alert and quick movers, in fact we became so efficient in dodging water that we decided to extend our athletic ability even further, and as a consequence of this we had a basketball team.”
While the women on campus did have to dodge water as part of campus life, the team actually originated through the efforts of Ruth Louise Terrett, one of the first five women to enroll at the school in 1921. The 1925 Tin Horn, a yearbook the early women issued when male students refused to include them in the regular school yearbook, The Bugle, reports that Terrett “stirred up an enthusiasm for basketball,” and in 1923 the coeds formed their own team, which they dubbed the “Sextettes.” Terrett was captain of the team, which played Blacksburg High School twice and Radford College, Concord Teacher’s College, and the YMCA of Roanoke once each. The team, which had seven members, won three of its five games, scoring victories against the high school and Concord.
Although the female students renamed their basketball team the “Turkey Hens” sometime before 1929, even the new name apparently couldn’t draw any support from the cadets. According to the 1926 diary of a female student, “Of course we weren’t in the Athletic Association, so we couldn’t expect support at our games. A few of the boys did come and always rooted for the opposing team. Not very sportsmanlike, but maybe some day it will be different.” Undaunted by the opposition from their classmates, the women charged the cadets exorbitant fees to attend the games.
By 1929 the team had expanded its schedule and had a coach, a Mr. Blair. That year, the team scored three wins, two ties, and two losses, bowing badly to Radford in 38-8 and 47-9 blowouts. The ties came on the road with Concord College and Bluefield College, with victories recorded in a return game with Concord and two with Marion College. By then, the cadets apparently had begun to root for the women because the 1929 Tin Horn cites the cadets’ and other coeds’ “excellent support” for the “peppy” play of the team.
In 1930, having lost only two players and still coached by Blair, the team went undefeated. Playing nine games, the Turkey Hens won eight games and tied one of two games with Lynchburg College. Their roster also included games with West Virginia Business College, Bluefield College, National Business College, and Marion College (one game).
In 1970 women’s basketball was operating as an unsanctioned club sport under Coach Ganna Roberts, but two years later, in 1972, the university officially sanctioned women’s basketball as a club sport. The first sanctioned team was coached by John H. Ristroph, a graduate student in industrial engineering and operations research who volunteered for the job. The team had neither scholarships nor a travel budget but still played both away games and home games, with the latter open admission events. Attendance was sparse. At the end of the season, the team played in a tournament for the state championship, finishing third.
Ristoph was followed by Joe Sgro, who coached the 1973-74 team to an 8-5 record, the 1974-75 team to a 9-9 record, and the 1975-76 team to an 8-9 record.
The team gained full varsity status at the beginning of the 1976-77 season and scored its first varsity win in 1976 by defeating Bridgewater College 59-55 under the coaching of John Wetzel. In 1977 Helena Flannagan received partial aid, becoming the first women’s basketball player to earn any kind of scholarship. The first full scholarship player was Kim Albany, who played 1978-82.
In 1987 basketball star Renee Dennis became the first woman at Virginia Tech to have her jersey retired.
The 1993-94 season saw the team, coached by Carol Alfano, win the Metro Tournament and advance to its first NCAA tournament. The team continued in the national limelight in 1997-98, when Coach Bonnie Henrickson guided it to a Metro Tournament championship and the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The following year, the team, playing 26 regular-season games and four tournament games, lost only twice before bowing to Tennessee in the “Sweet 16” round of the NCAA Tournament. While cracking the nation’s top 10 before the regular season ended, the team entered its NCAA duel with the University of Tennessee on March 20, 1999, ranked 13th ending the season ranked 13th by the Associated Press. One of the Hokies’ games hit number three in NCAA tournament attendance records, and the regular season attendance set new records for women’s basketball at Virginia Tech.
NCAA, first round loss to Auburn 51-60
NCAA, first round win over St. Joseph’s 62-52; second round loss to the University of Connecticut 45-91
|1998||NCAA, first round win over Wisconsin 75-64; second round loss to Florida 57-89|
|1999||NCAA, first round win over Saint Peter’s 73-48; second round win over Auburn 76-61; third round (“Sweet 16") loss to Tennessee 52-68|
|2000||WNIT, first round win over Georgia State 80-56; second round loss to Maryland 60-68|
|2001||NCAA, first round win over Denver 77-57; second round loss to Texas Tech 52-73|
|2002||WNIT, first round win over UNC Greensboro 51-46; second round win over George Washington 68-52; quarterfinal win over Vermont 76-48; semifinal loss to Houston 72-77|
|2003||NCAA, first round win over Georgia Tech 61-59; second round loss to Purdue 62-80|
|2004||NCAA, first round win over Iowa 89-76; second round loss to Penn State 48-61|
|2005||NCAA, first round loss to DePaul 78-79|
|2006||NCAA, first round win over Missouri 82-51; second round loss to Connecticut 56-79|
Basketball Coaches and Records
|1976-77||John Wetzel (7-9)|
|1977-78||Caroline Owen (8-16)—also coach of the women’s tennis team that season|
Carol Alfano 1978-79 (9-15); 1979-80 (17-12); 1980-81 (13-17); 1981-82 (16-2); 1982-83 (13-12); 1983-84 (15-15); 1984-85 (16-13); 1985-86 (13-15); 1986-87 (15-14); 1987-88 (12-16); 1988-89 (16-13); 1989-90 (14-14); 1990-91 (12-15); 1991-92 (10-18); 1992-93 (20-8); 1993-94 (24-6; Metro Tournament champions); 1994-95 (22-9); 1995-96 (11-17); 1996-97 (10-21); overall (284-262)
|1997-2004||Bonnie Henrickson 1997-98 (22-10; Atlantic 10 Tournament champions); 1998-99 (28-3; Atlantic 10 regular season champions); 1999-2000 (20-11); 2000-01 (22-9) 2001-02 (21-11); 2002-03 (22-10); 2003-04 (23-8); overall (158-62)|
|2004-current||Beth Dunkenberger: 2004-05 (17-12); 2005-06 (21-10); 2006-07 (19-15); 2007-08 (15-15); 2008-09 (12-18); overall (84-70)|