Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., until 1962 a mere appendage of the College of William & Mary, is the nation's capital of his-and-hers hoops. The male Monarchs, winners of the Division II NCAA title in 1975, made it into the Division I tournament this year, losing to UCLA 87-74. Not bad, though they'd better watch out, lest the Lady Monarchs turn the school into a matriarchy.
Led by three-time All-America Guard Nancy Lieberman and the twin towers under the backboards, 6'5" Inge Nissen of Denmark and 6'8" Anne Donovan, ODU embarrassed opponents all season. It beat UCLA by 28, USC by 43, Virginia Union by 60 and Virginia by 35 and 39. In a romp over Rutgers earlier this month, Lieberman had 27 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists, four steals and wrote three term papers at halftime.
Last Sunday afternoon in Mount Pleasant, Mich. the Lady Monarchs were near their best for a gymful of fans at Central Michigan University and a national TV audience. They beat Tennessee for the third time this season—it was their 27th victory in a row—and thus won their second straight AIAW national championship, improved their record to 37-1 and proved conclusively that in the short history of women's college basketball they are the best yet. The final score: Old Dominion 68, Tennessee 53.
It was Tennessee's third time in the final four but only the first in the title game. The Lady Vols climbed that high not only because of good coaching from Pat Head but also because of the overly liberal transfer rule of the AIAW, which allows a woman to switch schools and play right away. No sitting out a year, a semester or even so much as half a game. Even Head dislikes the rule, though she has benefited from it the most. Her two big scoring threats are transfers, 6'5" Cindy Noble from Ohio State and 6'3" Jill Rankin from Wayland Baptist in Texas. Rankin moved to Tennessee this season, after making All-America and playing on numerous international teams.
Old Dominion had by far the most fan support in Mount Pleasant, including a student decked out in a powder-blue lion suit, a man from a Norfolk radio station dressed up as a sea gull, the school band in powder-blue uniforms and a retired Navy man who wore powder blue right down to his shorts. Tennessee had to make do with a few followers waving pompons and the Mount Pleasant High School band dressed for the occasion in orange Tennessee T shirts.
But the entire population of Knoxville couldn't have helped the Lady Vols shoot over Donovan, who blocked 10 shots and pulled down 17 rebounds, and Nissen, who led all scorers with 20 points. Time after time Rankin and Noble would get the ball in the middle and end up having their shots batted away, contributing to Tennessee's woeful 33% field-goal average. And the Vols couldn't relieve the pressure by hitting from outside. Guards Holly Warlick and Lea Henry were a dismal 3 for 18.
To top it all off, Lieberman was up to her old ballhandling tricks, looking at press row while rifling a blind pass to Nissen underneath, hitting a jumper from the left baseline, stealing, rebounding and hounding Tennessee in the Monarchs' "passive press," designed to stop the Vols from running and to use up time on the 30-second clock getting the ball upcourt. All told, Lieberman, who had to sit several times because of foul trouble, had 12 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
" Lieberman's probably the most tenacious ballplayer I've ever seen," says Old Dominion Coach Marianne Stanley. "You don't find many guards that'll rebound the way she does. You don't find many players who can completely control the tempo and complexion of the ball game as Nancy does. I don't think I've seen many people who have her confidence. You can't teach that. Nancy probably had that when she was born. She probably came out of the womb swinging."
All the Monarchs came out of the locker room swinging Friday night for their semifinal game against Louisiana Tech. The Lady Techsters—surely that is a strong candidate for the worst nickname in college sports—were the only team to beat Old Dominion this season, 59-57 in Madison Square Garden in December. In that game Tech shut down ODU's inside attack, helped by the fact that Donovan, a freshman who was probably the most heavily recruited female athlete in the nation last year, was doing a Statue of Liberty imitation instead of constantly moving and seeking the ball. After that game, Stanley, a two-time All-America guard at Immaculata College, ordered double practice sessions for a week and a half "and did the things we had to do to establish our inside game."
Stanley had forecast nothing but nail-biters for the AIAW tournament, but she changed her mind just before the Louisiana Tech game. "We came out of the locker room and I was standing there watching us shooting," she said later, "and—whew!—we were hot as a pistol. Everybody was concentrating really hard and making a lot of shots, and that's not typical of us. And I thought, 'If they keep doing this, it's going to be unbelievable.' "