PARKERSBURG - Although the crowd was small, the West Virginia University at Parkersburg women's basketball team got its first-ever win.
In their hardwood debut, the Lady Riverhawks won 77-74 over the visiting Southern State Community College Patriots of Hillsboro, Ohio.
Anthony Underwood, vice president of student services at WVU-P, said the team is a volunteer and community effort, using no college funds. When the college began it athletics program, the funds were raised by the students and others.
Photo by Jeffrey Saulton
West Virginia University at Parkersburg Lady Riverhawks coach Taylor Phillips huddles with players Saturday.
"The athletics program is 100 percent self-supporting," he said.
Underwood said the athletics program has a role in supporting students' academic performance.
"Our studies have shown that student-athletes at our college do better academically and that's the key point," he said. "This past year our athletes, on average, increased their GPA by six percent and for men's basketball the GPA increased by 14 percent, so it's a great reinforcer of academic achievement."
Underwood said the women's program is one addition to a list of sports programs available at WVU-P. The school has men's basketball, golf and soccer, but the only other sport for women was volleyball.
"We needed some parity and since we already had a men's basketball team one of the easier things to do, considering the athletes we had on campus, was to start a women's team."
Underwood said the teams straddle the area between intramurals but do play other schools.
"State policy right now prevents us from having a true intercollegiate athletic program so we have to term it club sports," he said. "Even though our club sports teams compete with varsity teams they win. Our men's team beat varsity teams last year."
Underwood added the men's golf team competes with and wins over Division II men's golf teams in the West Virginia Conference. He said the program works due to volunteers.
Team member Jessica Moore said the team has come together well.
"It's been something real special just because we're all pretty much from Parkersburg South," she said. "We played together and a couple of us went away to play elsewhere and came back and ended up playing together."
Taylor Phillips, the team coach, said the team has benefited from most members coming from the same high school program. She played basketball in high school at Parkersburg South and college basketball at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania.
"Most of these girls are South girls I played with when I was a senior and they were freshmen," she said. "It's great to coach them since I have a feel for what they can do."
Phillips said she got into coaching the team after she was contacted by someone from the college about the position.
"I jumped at the chance, I've wanted to coach for some time," she said.
Whitney Drake said getting the team together took a lot of work on the players' parts.
"We only have so many girls so it's been kind of tough," she said. "We like working together and we've gotten used to each other and how we play."
Fans at the game said they were happy to see the team off to a start with a win.
Jackie Hunt said she liked the opportunity to see her daughter Kristiana Hunt in the game.
"I think it's wonderful," she said. "I love to see my daughter back out there on the court and I'm glad they are doing it."
Hunt said she was disappointed by the attendance.
"I would like to have seen a better turnout for the first year but I think it will pick up as time goes by," she said.
Bob Beach, great-uncle of player Jessica Moore, said he thinks the team has a great season ahead of them.
"It will take a dern good team to beat them," he said. "They have a lot of good ball players out there."