Before UConn became the team to beat and Tennessee forged rivalries with their incredible winning-odds, there was the Louisiana Tech-Old Dominion rivalry. This OG women's basketball feud began with a single game and helped launch women's college basketball into the spotlight.
The First Meeting
It's 1979 and the greatest women’s college basketball rivalry is on the verge of erupting. Two all-time greats of women's basketball are on the court: Louisiana led by Pam Kelly, their star player, stands opposite Old Dominion’s Nancy Lieberman.
Louisiana Tech enters halftime with a 32-27 lead and with every intention of securing a win at the sound of the final buzzer, but Old Dominion snatches victory from the jaws of defeat. ODU rallies in the second half for the win, victorious with a big 75-65 final score — putting the legendary rivalry into motion.
Recognition Better Late than Never
These teams personified everything a fan wanted in the perfect team: there was tradition, passion, and all-star players who wouldn’t give anything less than 100 percent every time they took the court. This rivalry brought women’s collegiate basketball into the headlines and helped reel in new fans who might have needed a small push to get into the sport.
Just a few years after this first meeting, the Lady Techsters won the first women's national title in 1982 after dominating the regular season. It was a victory for them and for women's basketball, but the title-winning team would only receive their championship rings later in 2017.
"The year before we went 34-0... When we transitioned to the NCAA that year, we lost one game, I think, we were on a 54-game winning streak," '82 winner Deb Williamson said. "When we won [the title], no one talked about the rings. We didn't pay that much attention to that. They gave us watches that had the NCAA logo on it. We thought maybe a ring would come later. It wasn't a big deal then."
Fans watched as ODU snapped Louisiana’s 54-game win streak in 1982 shortly after Louisiana, as a 4th place team, upended ODU as the 1st overall team. The excitement of these match-ups helped grow interest in women's basketball. The rivalry actually burned so deep that these two universities would eventually become rivals in most of their sports, including football.
A Legacy Worth Remembering
These two teams left a lasting impression on the collegiate sports world, as well as at their respective universities. Women's basketball players throughout the collegiate landscape have been trying, for decades, to emulate the same skill and determination that these original teams achieved.
While these original groundbreaking lineups can never be duplicated, their legacy continues to inspire female athletes to follow their determination and power.
"I don’t say this in a negative way, but there will never be another era like that at Louisiana Tech in women’s basketball," said former Techster Kim Mulkey, who is the only person to win a national title as a player, assistant coach and head coach. "They could build the program back up, they could win another national championship, but that era was just so special and you just can’t duplicate that."
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