BELLINGHAM, Wash. -
Carver Memories -- March 12, 1977
Vikings vanquish BSU in regional final,
avenge 32-point home loss to Broncos
During the 1976-77 season, the Western Washington State College (now Western Washington University) women's basketball team completed an incredible turnaround against Boise State to earn a trip to the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) National Tournament. It was the Vikings' third national appearance in program history over a span of just five years.
The remarkable feat happened at a time when more and more doors were opening for women's intercollegiate athletics following the passage of Title IX in 1972. But lines also were being drawn regarding what schools would rule in the future.
On January 28, 1977, the Vikings suffered their worst loss since future Hall of Fame coach Lynda Goodrich had assumed the reins six years earlier, falling by 32 points, 62-30, to Boise State. Worse, the blowout had come on their home court, Carver Gym, where they had been virtually infallible.
However, just six weeks later on March 12, in the championship game of the Northwest College Women's Sports Association (NCWSA)-AIAW Region IX Tournament held at Boise, Id., Western upset the Broncos on their home court, winning by eight points, 76-68.
What made such an improbable reversal possible? There were a number of factors, one being the insertion of two freshmen into the starting lineup.
"But I think the primary reason was a real attitude change on the team," said Goodrich following the season. "We went from a bunch of individuals, who just cared about themselves and whether they played, to a group that was really concerned with how the team did."
The result was a 13-game winning streak that culminated with the victory over Boise State, which entered the contest riding a 15-game victory string.
"It was a very together group of women that played those 13 games, probably more so than any other team that I've ever coached," Goodrich said at the time. "Everybody was pulling for everyone else, whether they played one minute or all 40. And that meant more to me than anything else, even the wins."
In its loss to Boise State, Western had shot just 15.9 percent (10-of-63) from the field and trailed 29-11 at halftime, while the Broncos were 49.1 percent (28-of-57) from the floor.
"It's a game that I would just like to forget," said Goodrich after watching her team fall.
During its winning streak, Western shot 44.2 percent from the field and held opponents to 55.8 points a game. Prior to that, the Vikings were shooting just 34.6 percent from the floor and giving up 63.1 points per contest.
Leading Western was 5-foot-10 senior forward Joni Slagle (Belfair/North Mason), who averaged 20.1 points per game with 543 total points and 222 field goals. All three figures were school records, and the scoring average remains among the top three in program history.
Slagle, a regional and Northern-Southern Area all-tournament pick, also grabbed a team-best 11.3 rebounds a game. She scored 20 or more points 15 times during the campaign, twice having a season-high 31, one short of the school record at that time.
"In my opinion she has to be one of the best all-around forwards in the country and is certainly the best I've ever coached," said Goodrich, who was a member of the Kodak All-American Selection Committee that season. Slagle had transferred to Western the previous season from Olympic CC.
Another regional all-tourney choice for the Vikings was 5-4 senior point guard Dee Dee Molner (Seattle/Evergreen), a four-year letter winner. She set a school career record with 438 assists, including 139 (5.0 avg.) during the 1976-77 season while averaging 12.0 points.
The two freshmen who became first stringers halfway through the campaign were 6-1 center Jan Johnston (Bellingham/Sehome), who averaged 8.6 rebounds and 6.5 points on 48.8 percent field-goal accuracy, and 5-6 guard Tamalyn Nigretto (Tacoma/Washington), who averaged 5.5 points and dished out 80 assists.
They both had outstanding careers, Johnston finishing with 1,050 rebounds (and 1,164 points) and Nigretto with 430 assists. Both of those totals ranked second among Western leaders at the time, Johnston being just one off the rebound record and Nigretto only eight shy of the assist mark.
"Having Tamalyn (Nigretto) and Jan (Johnston) helped us a lot," Slagle said in a recent interview. "Tamalyn took the pressure off Dee Dee (Molner) at the point a little bit because Tamalyn was an excellent passer and could really see the court. That allowed Dee Dee to concentrate a bit more on scoring."
Completing the starting lineup was 5-11 sophomore forward Keri Worley (Stanwood), who averaged 6.3 points and 10.5 rebounds and blocked 43 shots. She was the school's career rebounds leader for 17 years with 1,051.
"With Jan in there alongside Keri (Worley) we had two six-footers and I was 5-10. I had played post in high school and community college, but with those two inside, I could be move out a little and play my more natural position of forward."
Anchoring a multi-faceted bench was 5-9 senior forward Diane Bjerke (Seattle/Blanchet/Shoreline CC), who averaged 6.4 points and 5.5 rebounds.
Rounding out the Vikings' roster were 6-0 center Kim Gummersall (Fr., Mercer Island), 5-4 guard Joy Hack (So., Ketchikan, AK), 5-6 guard Laura Leiben (Fr., Kirkland/Lake Washington), 5-7 guard Theresa Mack (Fr., Kirkland/Lake Washington), 5-9 forward Ricky Mass (Jr., Anacortes/Seattle Pacific) and 5-9 senior Jane Nichols (Vancouver/Evergreen/Clark CC/Washington State).
The Vikings reached regionals by defending their area crown with a 51-46 win over defending regional titlist Portland State in the championship game at Portland, Ore. Western had advanced to the area final with a nail-biting 68-66 win over Alaska Fairbanks and a 70-65 victory over Washington.
A 70-52 semifinal win over Montana State propelled the Vikings to the regional final against Boise State.
"Going into the re-match with Boise State, we had changed our offense and adjusted our starting lineup, so we had a whole new look for them," Slagle recalled. "Lynda (Goodrich) was not going to let us go into that game and do the same thing. So that gave us confidence going in as we all had faith in her skills as a coach and felt good about our chances."
"On the other hand, they (Boise State) figured they had it. They came in very confident. It was a great game."
The Vikings led 42-33 at halftime, but Boise State scored the first 11 points of the second half to take a 44-42 advantage. Slagle gave Western the lead for good, 56-54, with a basket at 11:38 remaining and it quickly expanded that to six points.
Slagle paced Western with 20 points. Molner had 19 points and Johnston contributed 16 points and nine rebounds. Point guard Elaine Elliott led Boise State with a game-high 23 points before fouling out with 11 minutes to go, and post-player JoAnn Burrell had 22 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
Western shot 59.6 percent from the field (28-of-47), nearly 44 percentage points better than in the first meeting with the Broncos, in the game played before 1,211 spectators.
The 76-68 upset victory over Boise State earned Western a trip to the sixth annual AIAW National Tournament held that year at Minneapolis, Minn. There the Viking women, who had previously gone to nationals in 1973 and 1974, had their game carried live for the first time on local radio (KGMI).
"It was a big deal to get there," Slagle remembered. "We were at the University of Minnesota with its raised court. It was a really great to be part of that and get to see the top schools that we'd only heard about before."
"But it was also a little intimidating, as it was the first time to nationals for the majority of us."
Western's first-round opponent at the 16-team 1977 national tourney was Louisiana State, which represented one of the strongest regions in the country. The Lady Tigers, then known as the Ben-Gals, were paced by two Australian players, both members of the Aussie national team while still in high school. This at a time when recruiting international players for women's sports was practically nonexistent.
The twosome, who both stood 6-2, were forward Julie Gross and center Maree Bennie. They transformed a 17-14 team from the year before into a national title contender. Bennie averaged 27.7 points and 16.4 rebounds, and Gross averaged 18.5 points and 12.5 rebounds.
Bennie scored 40 points and Gross 23 as LSU romped past Western, 91-53. The Lady Tigers then beat Baylor and Immaculata PA (74-68), before falling in the final, 68-55, to Delta State, which won its third consecutive championship. Immaculata had won the first three AIAW titles and been runner-up the last two years. The Vikings had fallen to the Mighty Macs, 66-53, at nationals just four years earlier.
"I would like to forget the LSU game also," said Goodrich recently, "as I think we set a record for most fouls (35, three players fouled out) and I got a technical, not for anything I said, but because the referee said she could read my mind!"
"They called it a lot tighter than we were used to," said Slagle, who led the Vikings with 15 points and nine rebounds. "We were a fast-breaking team and we relied on that and they were able to shut us down and with the fouls being called the way they were that negated our defense, which was our other strength."
The next day, Western had its season end at 21-7 with a 97-51 loss to St. Joseph's PA.
Certainly during that tournament experience, the Vikings had gotten a glimpse of what the future held.
The Vikings were used to playing "big" schools in the Pacific Northwest, like Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Montana, Montana State, Idaho and Idaho State; and beating them on a regular basis. Now, with more pressure on those programs to win and with athletic scholarships for women looming on the horizon, the need for divisions were becoming more important.
In just five years, the AIAW ceased operations as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) added women's sports and other schools distaff programs became a part of the National Association of Intercollege Athletics (NAIA). The bigger programs were realizing that women's athletics could be profitable.
"It was the beginning of the end for the AIAW in that the DI (larger) schools were looking to take their programs to the level of the men's, which meant money," said Goodrich. "In looking back, it was the best thing for women's athletics to work for equal status."
Lynda Goodrich coached women's basketball at WWU for 19 years (1971-72 to 1990-91), finishing with a 411-125 record. Named the Vikings' Female Coach of the Century (1900-99), she became just the third NAIA women's basketball coach to reach the 400 milestone in career victories. Goodrich directed the Vikings to three District 1 championships and two Bi-District I crowns, both times reaching the quarterfinals at the NAIA National Tournament; and three regional titles and subsequent trips to the AIAW Nationals. A finalist for National Division II Coach of the Year honors in 1981 and 1982, Goodrich never had a losing season, while posting 13 20-win campaigns and reaching post-season play 18 times. Goodrich retired on May 6, 2013, following 26 years as WWU Director of Athletics. She served two years as Special Assistant to the Vice President/Athletic Fund Raising (2013-15). Under her direction, the Vikings won nine national championships and another nine individual national titles and posted five straight top 15 finishes (2008-13) among over 300 schools in the Learfield Sports Directors Cup Division II National All-Sports standings, being sixth in 2009-10 and seventh in 2010-11. WWU claimed a fifth straight Great Northwest Athletic Conference All-Sports championship in 2012-13, its ninth title in the 12-year history of the conference.
The 2006 National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics NCAA II West Region Athletics Director of the Year, Goodrich was named WWU's Sports Impact Person of the Century (1900-99) and was inducted into Western's Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999. She also was inducted into the NAIA National Hall of Fame in 1996, the Northwest Women's Hall of Fame in 2000, the Lake Stevens High School Hall of Fame in 2004 and the Snohomish County Sports Hall of Fame in 2011. Goodrich was selected as NAIA Pacific Northwest Region Women's Administrator of the Year in 1996-97, Pacific Northwest Athletic Conference Female Administrator of the Year in 1994-95 and NAIA District 1 Female Administrator of the Year in 1991-92. She was a finalist for Whatcom County Business Woman of the Year in 1992, receiving the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Western's Alumni Association in 1988 and named the Whatcom County Sports Person of the Year in 1987. Goodrich, who is a past member of the NCAA II Championships Committee, was instrumental in rebuilding and reshaping WWU's sports program. With her at the helm, WWU Athletics earned a reputation as a leader both regionally and nationally. The Vikings' accomplishments included seven NCAA II national championships in women's rowing and one in men's basketball, and an NAIA national title in softball. They had top 100 national all-sports standing finishes in all 15 seasons as a NCAA II member (last nine among top 50).
Other noteworthy accomplishments for Goodrich, included being honored at the WWU Presidents Holiday Dinner in 2016, member of a state committee that implemented tuition waivers for college women athletes, raising funds for a strength and fitness center, softball field upgrade and installation of a multipurpose field, introducing a highly successful annual fund drive, auction, and golf tournament to raise scholarship monies, adding softball and golf as varsity sports for women, and implementing a strong marketing program that helped set attendance records in all sports. She also was an associate athletic director for two years and headed the women's sports program for seven years. Goodrich was an assistant coach for the East team that won a silver medal at the 1985 National Sports Festival. She also was recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow by Rotary International. Goodrich, who coached and taught five years at West Seattle High School, obtained a bachelor's degree in 1966 and a master's degree in 1973, both at WWU. A graduate of Lake Stevens High School, she also coached golf, tennis, track, and volleyball at WWU.
Joni Slagle (Belfair/North Mason HS, Olympic CC), an honorable mention pick on WWU's All-Century team and a member of the Central Kitsap Hall of Fame (2007), was named to both the regional and Northern-Southern area all-tournament teams as a senior on the 1976-77 Western team, helping the Vikings to a 21-7 record, area and regional titles, and a trip to the AIAW National Tournament. She set school records by averaging 20.1 points per game (ranked among top two for 40 years), finishing with 543 points and 222 field goals. Slagle, who scored 20 or more points 15 times, also was the team leader in rebounding with 306 (11.3 average). Both her scoring and rebounding averages ranked among the top three regionally. Slagle scored a season-high 31 points twice, versus Montana and Washington, one short of the school record at that time. In 1975-76, she led the Vikings to 20-4 record, pacing the squad in points (17.0 avg., 408) and being second in rebounds (10.5 avg., 251), as Western won the area title and placed third at regionals.
Slagle played first two collegiate seasons at Olympic College, being inducted into that school's athletics hall of fame in 2017. A three-sport letter winner both years at OC in volleyball, basketball and tennis, she averaged 27.0 points and 16.0 rebounds as a sophomore in basketball for the Rangers. She had career-highs of 47 points and 23 rebounds in a game against Centralia College. Slagle averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds as freshman. A four-year letter winner in tennis and basketball at North Mason High School. Slagle was the school's Female Athlete of the Year as a senior. She averaged 20.3 points as a senior in basketball with a high of 35 in one game, leading the team to league titles her final two seasons.
A graduate assistant coach at Western for one season, Slagle passed on a professional career despite being drafted by the Minnesota Fillies of the Women's Professional Basketball League in 1978. She took a job at Blaine High School instead, teaching PE and coaching volleyball, basketball, and track. Slagle spent the next three years in the Bellingham High School District as a K-12 physical education specialist. She then worked at the Lake Padden Golf Course, took the PGA course in Florida and became an assistant pro there. Slagle coached girls basketball at Meridian High School before taking a one-year leave from Padden to play professionally in Australia, competing with the Brisbane Bullets in the National Basketball League during the 1983 season. She also put on clinics for kids around that country during her one-year stay. Slagle played AAU basketball for Bellco Electric out of Seattle with other top players in the state. In 1990, she went to work for BP Arco, retired in 2014, and now manages a cargo safety company. Slagle graduated from OC in 1975 with an Associate of Arts degree and from WWU in 1978 with a Bachelor of Arts in Education (physical education major and health minor).
Dee Dee Molner (Seattle/Evergreen) played professional softball for the Buffalo Bruskies in New York during her time at Western. She was named to the regional all-tournament team as a senior on the 1976-77 Western women's basketball team, helping the Vikings to a 21-7 record, area and regional titles, and a trip to the AIAW National Tournament. Molner averaged 12.0 points and 5.0 assists, setting a school career record with 438 assists. As a junior, she averaged 10.1 points with 119 assists and 67 steals in helping Western to an area tourney title and a 20-4 record. A four-year letter winner for the Vikings, Molner attended Evergreen HS when that school did not have a girls athletic program. She majored in history at Western.
Written by Paul Madison who served 48 years as sports information director at WWU from 1966 to 2015.
Kitsap Sun: Former Western basketball player inducted into Kitsap Sports Hall of Fame
By Terry Mosher, Kitsap Sun, Oct. 12, 2007
BREMERTON, Wash. --- It wasn't too long time ago girls playing sports was virtually a no-no. And newspapers as late as 1973 did not give much coverage to girls in high school sports in their pages, even if there were sports available, which were few and then mainly only on a recreational basis.
The Kitsap Sun's sports pages were filled with anything but girl athletes, not counting the one day in 1973 a picture of Lynn Nestby was run with the caption, "Pretty South Kitsap cheerleader."
Pee Wee sports and adult men's recreational basketball at Sheridan Park gym in Bremerton produced larger headlines in the daily paper.
Pity poor Joan "Joni" Slagle, who toiled large on the local sports scene at this time, but did so in virtual disappearing ink. And Slagle had the further misfortune of graduating from North Mason High School just about the time the disappearing ink was to reappear.
A lawsuit forced educators in 1972 to enact the Title IX legislation (President Richard M. Nixon signed the bill into law on June 23, 1972) that guarantees, "No person in the U.S. shall, on the basis of sex be excluded from participation in, or denied, the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal aid."
Title IX was on the books the summer before Slagle's senior year, but was not to have an effect on local daily sports pages until she had taken her one-woman basketball act to Olympic College, where her records and the memories of her are buried in the dust bins of history.
A weekly newspaper -- the Huckleberry Herald, which proclaimed to cover Belfair, Allyn, Grapeview, Tahuya, Mason Lake, South Shore and North Shore -- printed some one- and two-paragraph game stories of Slagle's senior basketball season at North Mason. Slagle's coach, Jan Johnson, kept a scrapbook, so we do know Slagle was the real basketball (and tennis and volleyball) deal before anybody believed females could be real deal athletes.
"She could run the court like a deer," says Harlan Olson, retired teacher and coach at North Mason. "We would watch their games and the score would be like 38 to 15, or something like that. They would just pound other teams and Joni would have somewhere between 22 and 30 points."
According to statistics Johnson kept, Slagle averaged 20.1 points and 11.3 rebounds per game her senior year (1972-73), leading North Mason to a 9-1 record and the championship of the old Nisqually League, the first year that the Belfair girls had a legitimate league to win.
Slagle, who now lives in Bellingham and is a foreman at BP Arco on Cherry Point, halfway between Ferndale and Birch Bay in Whatcom County, advanced in her sport despite the odds. She became the first known female basketball player from the West Sound area to play at the four-year collegiate level, which makes her the trailblazer for all the young women who came after her.
After two years at OC, Slagle played at Western Washington, where she set numerous records, some of which she still holds. But the story really begins back when she was a young girl growing up on the South Shore of Hood Canal.
"None of our children were like Joni," says mother Irene Slagle. "It (sports) was just natural for her. My son (Steven) played football and some baseball and was just a good, average Joe. And Jill (her other daughter) played some volleyball, but Joni just had more natural ability, and interest."
Slagle defied the general wisdom at the time that girls should not compete in sports, or sweat for that matter.
"It's almost like you were treated different if you had an interest in sports back then," Slagle said. "Now it's a positive. I was considered a tomboy when I played. It wasn't always a positive thing like it is now. But it sure was fun."
Slagle started out playing basketball against Steve (two years older than she is) and her late father Elmer.
"We had a hoop in the backyard nailed against an old maple tree," Slagle remembers. "I played horse against Steve and my dad."
Later, Slagle would play basketball at the Landram home near Sunset Beach on Hood Canal, which was just down the road.
The Landrams -- Bill, Drew, Bruce, Glenn, George and Rudy all made names for themselves in sports, especially in basketball at North Mason -- played half-court games at their house, and Slagle would join in, especially against Bruce, her boyfriend in high school. She also played tennis against Bruce.
"You have an athletic boyfriend, and dad and everybody else shooting hoops with you, that just started it off for me," Slagle said.
When she got to high school, Slagle said the girls didn't have a basketball program until her junior year.
Slagle was not only good in basketball, Johnson found out, but was also very good in tennis. With Slagle at No. 1 singles and Gwen Pederson at No. 2, the Bulldogs were a power on the tennis courts.
"Joni was probably the most gifted athlete I ever coached," says Johnson. "She was just a natural."
Slagle's exploits on the basketball court filtered to Olympic College basketball coach Charolette York. Slagle wound up there and had an immediate impact.
It wasn't until her sophomore year at OC (1974-75) that the effect of Title IX started to leak down to newspapers, and it was reported that Slagle averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds a game in the 1973-74 season for OC, which went 5-5 (5-11 overall) in what was then called Northwest College Women's Sports Association.
Slagle picked her game up her sophomore season. She scored 23 points in a season-opening 57-48 loss to the University of Puget Sound, and then hit 27 in game four, another defeat.
Slagle was just warming up. On Jan. 29, 1975, Slagle turned into a scoring machine, pumping in a school record 47 points as the Rangers blasted Centralia, 78-38.
As far as can be determined those 47 points are a high in a basketball game for any woman athlete in West Sound history.
Slagle finished her basketball career at OC by scoring 35 points in a 48-44 loss to Highline, winding up her final year averaging 25 points and 20 rebounds a game.
As unnoticed as her athletic career might have been up to this point, the right person noticed Slagle.
Lynda Goodrich was building a women's basketball power at Western Washington, and when Slagle showed up one summer for a basketball camp, Goodrich quickly recognized what a talent she was and convinced Slagle to play for her.
"I wanted to be a teacher, I think, at the time, and Western had a good education program," Slagle said.
Goodrich, who compiled a 411-125 record as head coach at Western in 19 seasons, recalls meeting Slagle that first time.
"We didn't go out and recruit much back then," Goodrich said. "It was more about hearing about someone than recruiting. It was fortunate that (Slagle) had come to one of our camps and I saw her play. I thought to myself, 'I want her on my team.'
"She's a great athlete. She was an outstanding player, a great scorer, and good team leader. We won the regional tournament and went to the AIAW national tournament her senior year."
Slagle led the Vikings in scoring her first year there (her junior season, 1975-76), knocking down 17 points a game as a forward. Her senior season (1976-77), Slagle set the school record, scoring 20.1 points a game (still ranks among top three in program history). She also averaged 11.3 rebounds.
Slagle, whose single-game high was 31 points at Western, set school records for most field goals attempted in a game (30, against Central Washington, 1977), career scoring average (18.6), turnovers in career (149) and tied for most free throws attempted in a game (17, against the University of Washington, 1976).
The Vikings won the 1977 Area Tournament and defeated Boise State, 76-68, to win the regional championship. They advanced to the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) national tournament where they lost to Louisiana State, 91-53, and St. Joseph's, 97-51.
Slagle was named to the Area All-Tournament team as well as the Regional All-Tournament squad, helping the Vikings to a 21-7 record.
Slagle's an honorable mention pick on Western's All-Century (1900-99) Women's Basketball Team.
Goodrich remembers Slagle helping coach in the Western program for a year while she got her teaching certificate.
The Minnesota Fillies of the short-lived Women's Professional Basketball League (WPBL) drafted Slagle for the 1978 season, but Slagle, who had gotten her educational degree in PE and health, passed on the pro life to take a job teaching PE and coaching volleyball, basketball and track at Blaine High School.
She got laid off at Blaine after one year and then spent the next three years in the Bellingham School District as a K-12 PE specialist. When she again got caught in a reduction of force, Slagle took a job at Lake Padden Golf Course, took the PGA course in Florida and became assistant pro there.
Slagle, who also coached girls basketball at Meridian High School, took a one-year leave from Padden (1983) to play basketball as a shooting guard for the Brisbane Bullets in the National Basketball League in Australia. She also put on clinics for kids around that country during her one-year stay.
Slagle also played AAU basketball for Bellco Electric out of Seattle for several years, teaming with other top players in the state, including Jo Metzger, who tops Western's All-Century team.
In 1990, Slagle went to work for BP Arco, finally figuring, she says, that there was more money to be made in the refinery business than golf or education, although she misses the kids.
Slagle, now 51, doesn't think of herself as a trailblazer for young women.
"I think you just did something, it wasn't about not being equal with the boys at that time," Slagle says. "I just played. I really didn't think about it (the lack of equality for girls in sports).
But she is happy the way things have gone since Title IX.
"When I look back, I just think that it's great how far girls sports have come and just how much more opportunity there is," Slagle says. "It was pretty lame when I was in high school."
And why did she take off in sports while others didn't?
"I loved it," she said. "Just in my blood. I was born that way. My sister played volleyball, was homecoming queen and a cheerleader. She got the cute genes and I got the athletic ones.
"It's a good old country story. The backyard, the maple tree, those where my development camps. I was just a kid who liked to shoot hoops."
Terry Mosher attended Western, majoring in political science and earning a bachelor's degree in 1965. He went on to a long career as a sports writer for the Bremerton Sun/Kitsap Sun and continues to write columns for the paper. Terry covered the Seattle Mariners for over 20 years and also was the Major League Baseball official scorer for Mariner games. He covered University of Washington football and Husky men's and women's basketball for nearly 30 years.
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