The Seton Hall Pirates women’s basketball team hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1995. Last month, they honored the only other team in program history to make the tournament: the 1994 Sweet Sixteen team.
SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – For one night they turned back the clock. The appearance of Walsh Gym has been upgraded a bit and the overall facilities have been altered. Regardless, Seton Hall was home.
On a November Friday evening the 1994 Seton Hall Women’s team was honored at halftime of the Hall contest against Weber State.
One by one the players and coaches were introduced to enthusiastic applause from the Seton Hall crowd. Tina Martin could not be there as she was coaching her Delaware team that night. Martin, a Hall assistant in ’94, did leave a message read to those in attendance.
Phyllis Mangina, now a St. Peter’s assistant, was the head coach at the time. She recalled the season as it was yesterday. There was also the recollection of UCONN coming in one night.
“We not only beat them we put a (22 point) hurt on them,” Mangina gushed to an increased decibel level of crowd approval.
“It was a wonderful experience,” Mangina said. “It was such a special time and it still is. Just seeing the love these ladies have for one another.’
The record book shows the finally tally at 27-5 for the season. The Pirates were 16-2 in the Big East and tournament runners up to an avenging UCONN. The ranking was 14th in the nation There were win streaks of ten and eight games with never an occurrence of consecutive losses. The numbers were certainly impressive but the closeness evident today transcends those records.
Jodi Brooks, an All-American and team’s leading scorer spoke about how close the team is today. Two decades ago they were close on and off the floor. That closeness allowed them to build outstanding chemistry and maintain a virtual sixth sense of what everyone was doing. “We had great success,” Brooks said. “There was talent but we all knew our roles.”
Brooks today operates a pet grooming business. The lessons learned at the Hall, especially on the basketball court apply to her current venture. Brooks follows the games well. She recounts recent conversations with coach Martin about former Delaware great Ellena Delle Donne and qualities that make her so special.
“We played Texas early in the second round ( a 71-66 Hall victory in the confines of Walsh Gym), ” Dawn Johnson said. “Then in the NCAA they hosted us and were wonderful hosts.” Johnson, a dominant post player on that team echoes Mangina’s opinion regarding Penn State. To this day she cannot watch that game. “It was upsetting in the aftermath, We were so close and for a few mistakes, we lost it. If we won who knows what could have happened.”
Johnson was a local player. She starred at Lyndurst, about 13 miles from the Seton Hall campus. After college she coached high school basketball for a few years. She lives in the Northern New Jersey area, works as a school counselor and follows the game she loves.
Beside the record and highlights mentioned during those introductions, you may not have known much else about this Seton Hall team. One thing is certain, by the way this team greeted and interacted with each other, you can tell they were very close, Correction, they still remain very close.
Following the game (a win over Weber State) there was a reception in a room just off the court at Walsh. The honorees were in attendance, relaxing, exchanging stories and enjoying refreshments. It was nice and not surprising to see current Seton Hall mentor Tony Bozzella and his staff drop by to visit. It was especially gratifying and heart warming to see the current Hall players drop by, introduce themselves and meet members of that ‘94 team.
Two decades removed. The ‘94 team enjoyed their moment when the current team was either in their infancy. Or yet to be born. Still, there was a bond. The ‘94 members as teammates and family. To no surprise they were excited on greeting today’s group as members of the extended Seton Hall family.