Thursday, May 29, 2014

Remember ODU's Tish? She's Dr. Lyons now

We remember Tish Lyons as the guard with the sweet baseline jumper for Old Dominion. Now the kids we knew is Tish is the doctor we know as Dr. Lyons. Major congrats on her recent graduation from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn., and many thanks for taking time to chat with us.

What kind of doctor are you, and do you know where you will work yet?

Thank you!  I am an obstetrician and gynecologist. In March, I matched to the University of Texas-Houston, Memorial Hermann Hospital which is in the Texas Medical Center.  My official start date is June 24th and I'm so excited!

What was medical school like? What was the hardest time(s)?

Medical school was very challenging and very rewarding. The first two years in the classroom involved me cramming as much information about the human body and its associated diseases into my brain. The third year of school was very hands-on, as I rotated through family medicine, ob/gyn, psychiatry,  internal medicine, surgery and pediatrics.  Going into that year, I was convinced I was going to do orthopaedic surgery; however, I fell in love on my ob/gyn rotation and never looked back.  Fourth year was filled with applications, interviews around the country, match day and graduation. 
The hardest times of medical school was studying for the different parts of my licensing exam. During medical school I had three different exams to take and I have one more to take in residency.  These exams are very comprehensive and required a focused and intense study period as well as a hefty financial commitment. 

Guessing no time for basketball. Do you ever play pickup? Miss the game?

Although medical school sucks up a lot of time, I definitely made it a priority to make time for things I enjoy. I've actually participated in a spring city league three out of the four years I was in medical school with another Virginia athlete, Cherish Springfield. Additionally, Meharry has an intramural basketball league that I participated in -- on an all-female squad.  I miss the game at the collegiate level times, but anytime I want to play I know where to find a good game.

How long will it take for you to get used to hearing folks call you Dr. Lyons?!

I'm not sure how long it will take, but it shouldn't take too long after June 24th!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Remembering Ginny

Services for Ginny Doyle will be held --
Tuesday, May 27
Life Celebration, 7 p.m.
John H. Givnish Funeral Home
10975 Academy Road
Philadelphia, PA 19154
(215) 281-0100
Wednesday, May 28
Silent Prayer, 10-11 a.m.
Mass, 11 a.m. to noon
St. Bede the Venerable Roman Catholic Church
1071 Holland Road
Southampton, PA 18966
(215) 357-5720
Cards for Ginny Doyle may be sent:
c/o Raymond Doyle
40 Ronald Drive
Holland, PA 18966

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Updated: Bilney sisters, Nichols, Wann share their memories of Ginny and Natalie

Our deepest sympathies go to the families of Ginny Doyle, Natalie Lewis and Daniel Kirk, whose lives were lost in a tragic hot air balloon crash on Saturday. Doyle, associate head coach under Michael Shafer, was the longest tenured assistant in the state. A Spider player for two years and an assistant for 15, she once held the NCAA Division I record for consecutive free throws made with 66.

Buffalo native Lewis, a former swimmer for the Spiders and two-time team captain, was in her second season as the team's director of operation. She and longtime sweetheart Michael Dougher became engaged in April.

Kirk was the balloon pilot.

LadySwish extends its sympathies to the entire Richmond team and coaches.

We offer recollections of Ginny and Natalie, who were remembered Wednesday morning by the Richmond community at an on-campus service. A more formal memorial service is planned for the fall.

We thank Samantha Bilney, Rachael Bilney, Amber Nichols and Becca Wann, both of whom graduated on Sunday, for sharing their memories with us.

From Samantha, who shared her thoughts in writing:

"I'm not sure I could ever have thanked Coach Doyle enough for how she impacted my life. She
introduced me and my family to the University of Richmond, something I would never have been able to find on my own. The experiences I had at UR will shape me forever, and I never would have known the school existed if it weren't for Coach Doyle. And I think that is one of the things that made her so special -- she gave kids all across the country a chance to change their lives! And she did it with the greatest  passion, love and the truest understanding of the game of basketball I have ever known. I will always remember the long talks, the banter, the jokes, and her smile. Her creaky knees, her sarcasm, and her heart. Forever happy she was teaching the game of basketball and forever happy I will be remembering all she taught me, on and off the court.

"Any time I have described Natalie I say, 'You know! The happy one with the beautiful smile!' And that is how I will always remember her. I knew of her as a swimmer and fellow student-athete at UR, but I got to know her when she joined our staff, and I am so gracious of our time together. I have truly never met someone who radiated such happiness. She brightened the world of those around her with her spirit and positivity. Her excitement for life was inspiring, as she embraced each day with energy and enthusiasm, and I think that is what I will always remember the most about her. We lost a stunning person but gained a radiant angel. 

"I will always love them both, and I will never forget the beautiful joy they brought to my life. I am honored and grateful to have known them and completely heartbroken to have lost them. My prayers are with the Lewis and Doyle families as well as all the Spiders that knew them. May we always cherish the true joy they leave in our memories."

From Rachael, who shared her thoughts in writing: 

"I am forever indebted to Coach Doyle, as she was my lead contact and recruiter at Richmond. The conversations we shared will always remain special as she was a huge part of my decision to attend UR. She was also so much of why my time at school was so special. Coach Doyle was always goofy with the players. We pulled pranks, picked on each other and laughed relentlessly. We always joked with each other that you had to plan out at least 90 minutes if you were going to the coaches offices because, without fail, you would get caught up talking to Coach Doyle. She was so loved and respected by everyone at the school and beyond. I only hope to have the same reputation she acquired. Her legacy will live on . . . once a Spider, always a Spider.

"I had the honor of being in school with Natalie at the same time. Although I only got close to her when she was our director of operations, her bubbly personality and unwavering smile were well known by all. I can truly say I have never been around a person who simply glowed so naturally as Natalie. She radiated all day, every day. Her passion for life, people, her swim team and then the basketball program was palpable. Of course, her efforts with her job made her indispensible, but it was her love and compassion that we all appreciated so much more. The joy that Natalie had will long be missed, but I am so thankful to have had the chance to know her and more importantly learn from her. 

"Thank you, Natalie and coach Doyle, for everything. I love you both with all that I have. My heart is with your families and your memories will be with me forever."

From Amber: Ginny and Natalie were the last two people Amber saw when she left campus a week ago for an internship interview at a sports management company in California.

"Before I left, I was in Coach Doyle's office talking about my upcoming trip to Cali. Natalie came in and sat down with us and was telling us about the engagement party her mother and father had thrown for her. She was so excited. Her mom had taken 1,000 pictures of her and Michael. She was giving us the details of her engagement party."

Ginny told Amber to promise to text or call with details, and Natalie assured Amber she'd get the internship.

Amber was back from the trip when she saw the group text from Shafer telling the seniors about the accident. "My first thought was it wasn't fatal; maybe it got stuck in a tree. Then Olivia (Healy) texted me at 2:45 a.m. on Friday night and said they were missing. I broke down. My mom stayed up with me. On Saturday, coach Shafer explained what happened. Sunday was graduation, and it was really, really hard. We were with coach Shafer in person and we were about to take pictures, and he said to us that coach Doyle told him on Friday she was proud of us and told him she couldn't wait to see us graduate. She told him that she wanted us to enjoy this day and she wanted us to be happy. He told us, 'I know Natalie and Doyle want  you all to be happy, and this is a moment to celebrate.' It was inspiring. It was a really emotional moment for us."

"Coach Doyle was the one who reached out to my high school coach to recruit me. She was the one I always worked out with and she the one I reported my grades to every week. She was the coach I probably had the best relationship with, because I saw her the most. My freshman year, I remember I was struggling a little bit adjusting to the flow of the college game. She pulled me aside after practice and said, 'You have a lot of potential and I know you're having a tough time adjusting right now, but I wanted to let you know that I believe in you and if I didn't, I wouldn't have gone out of my way to recruit you.' She was that kind of person. When she saw you struggling, she tried to build your confidence up.

"This previous summer was my biggest memory of Coach Doyle. I worked every day with her by myself. Every day we would meet at 12:30 and do ballhandling workouts. We would laugh and she'd tell me I'd be getting drills quick. We'd laugh through the drills. I remember going through my old text messages and at the end of the workout she'd text me, 'You really did a good job today. You had a purpose. You're going to have a great season.' That fact that she cared so much about how I was improving spoke to her personality.

"We'd always talk about everything. Even when I'd go into her office for my grades for what should be a two-minute meeting, it would be 30 to 45 minutes. We would talk about everything. In California (during the season), we missed our flight to get back to Richmond. She ended up taking care of me and four of my teammates in the airport. She stayed up while we all slept. 

"She always cared. She always wanted details about what you were doing. That showed how much she cared. When I got the internship with the Redskins, most people brushed it off. She wanted to know details like, 'What are you doing?' and 'Do you like it?' and 'Who have you met?'

"Natalie came to us last year, and off the bat, she was smiling all the time. You could have the worst day of practice, you could have the worst mood, and Natalie would come in and smile and brighten everything up."

From Becca:

"Nat taught me to swim last summer. After basketball season ended, three days a week we would get in the pool, and she taught me all the strokes. It actually ended up helping me, because when I was frustrated, I would get in the pool as an outlet. Every Tuesday morning we would get up and we would swim.

"One day at practice I was struggling and I was sitting. I was upset I wasn't on the court, and I started crying. I didn't think anybody saw me. I left and gathered myself and came back in. We went down to lift and came back up an hour and a half later. Nat knows I love dried fruit. She left dried fruit and nuts with a note that said, 'Hope this dried fruit helps those wet eyes I saw this morning. xxx Nat.' That's her. She would do anything for anybody. She's the most thoughtful person.

Coach Doyle . . . I just remember sitting in her office for extended periods of time talking about nothing! This year with not playing I feel like I got to know all of the coaches, but especially Coach Doyle, on a different level. Coach Doyle is one of the funniest people you will meet. It's this dry humor. Our relationship was mostly banter. I'm not sure there were any actual compliments dished out. It was usually her picking on me and me picking right back. I started refing IM (intramural) basketball as an on-campus drive. I liked it, and the coaches would let me ref scrimmages in practice.  Coach Doyle would be one of the other refs. Her and Coach Shafer would give me the hardest time for refing. I"ll always remember that. I went to this A-10 refing clinic in Richmond. Immediately afterward I went to Coach Doyle's office and she asked me how it was. For an hour I told her about all the dumb stuff I did. She texted me after that and said, 'I'm sitting here laughing at the stories you told me about your refing.' She would pounce on any opportunity to give me a hard time, which I loved. We definitely had a unique player-coach relationship in that manner, but I loved it."

On graduation day: "For me it was a balancing act. I went to church that morning and I walked in the door and sobbed for probably an hour and a half. I had gotten Nat a ticket to come. But I realized both of them would kill me if they knew I was crying on my graduation day. They would be like, 'You worked four years for this. You're just going to cry it away?' I put my big girl panties on for them. We had a moment of silence for them, and I sat there in my cap and gown with tears streaming down my face. It came in waves. I saw the swimmers who were graduates and they had their caps decorated like we did. We just cried. Sunday for me -- there were times I celebrated my graduation, but it was very up and down. It was also Mother's Day. Afterward, I went to dinner with my mother and in the restaurant there was a five-minute news story on them, and I started crying. It doesn't go away, but at the same day I want to honor them with the way they'd want me to be, and sad is not anywhere close to that."

For more memories, read Mel Greenberg's blog here.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Talking to ODU's Shae Kelley about why she left for Minnesota

Leaving Lady Monarch basketball behind was a hard decision for Shae Kelley.

Last year's leading scorer and rebounder from Old Dominion will play out her eligibility at the University of Minnesota, which hired former VCU coach Marlene Stollings on April 8. Former ODU assistant Niki Dawkins is an assistant to Stollings at Minnesota.

Most players who opt to transfer have to sit out a season due to NCAA rules. But although Kelley didn't walk in Saturday's graduation at the Constant Center, she did graduate with her bachelor's in sociology, which will allow her to play immediately for the Gophers.

"It was definitely something I realized my junior year, that I could have the possibility to pursue another school," said Kelley from her Denver home. "Leaving really was an ongoing thought process. I really want to go into social work, and ODU didn't really provide that. That was a big reason for my choice. Of course, it was a tough one because ODU was so welcoming, and I definitely had a great time there my two years."

Kelley, who went to three high schools in four years and graduated from Denver East, initially signed with Colorado. The coaching staff was fired four months after, but the school refused to grant her a release. On the first day of the Buffaloes season opener, Kelley signed with Northwest Florida State, where she earned junior college All-America honors.

The 6-1 forward then had a dynamic career starting in 2012 at ODU, and last season was the undisputed best player on the floor for the Lady Monarchs. But Kelley said she wanted a better fit on the court and in the classroom -- she plans to pursue a master's in social work at Minnesota -- for her final year of college ball.

She received her release from ODU one month ago and has explored colleges ever since. Not surprisingly a bunch showed interest in the All-Conference USA first-teamer, who amassed more than 1,000 points in her two seasons in Norfolk. Her list included Michigan State, Oregon, Florida, Ole Miss  (which she visited) and Indiana. The winner became Minnesota when she went for her visit.

"It's a very experienced coaching staff," Kelley said. "Coach Nik has a heck of a resume. Coach Marlene is really down to earth. I really connected with her during my visit. They know how I play; we played them twice when they were at VCU. She's an uptempo coach. They're running and gunning, and that's my style of play. I really connected with the team on my visit."

Kelley did not know Dawkins from her time at ODU -- Dawkins assisted former ODU coach Wendy Larry for seven seasons -- but spoke to graduated Lady Monarch Shakeva Richards about her style.

Under Stollings, who replaced Pam Borton, fired after the Gophers lost in the first round of the WNIT, Minnesota could be a national contender. In addition to Kelley, the Gophers tout two WBCA All-America honorable mentions in 6-5 center Amanda Zauhi B and Rachel Banham, the most touted duo since the Gophers boasted Janel McCarville and Lindsay Whalen.

"Amanda and Rachel, I really connected with them," Kelley said. "I feel I'm the missing piece and we can really make some noise at Minnesota."

In addition to her major, Minnesota is in a bigger conference (the Big 10), which has its own network -- perks for a player hoping to achieve a professional career.

Kelley said the added exposure at Minnesota played a role in her decision. "Not necessarily the full factor but I do want to go to the WNBA and go overseas. That's a goal of mine. There's a great team bond. None of those girls left. They could have left after they lost their coach. It's team basketball. That's definitely exciting for me -- going to that next level."

The decision to leave was neither easy or quick, Kelley said. "It was a very, very hard decision. It was something I prayed about, thought about, talked to my family. The fans there are very supportive. They love me. I love the fans, the team; we did better than we did the year before. It was definitely a hard decision to make knowing I was the best player on the team. I had that comfort. It took a while to decide what I really wanted to do."

At Minnesota, she wants to improve her mid-range jump shot and further develop her 3-pointer and ball handling skills.

"I left on good terms," Kelley says. "As a transfer coming in, you're always dealing with that -- that chance. I could have stopped playing basketball. They definitely understood. I'm an alum, so I'm always going to be part of the ODU family."

Kelley will leave for Minneapolis in June.

"I've got to get me some coats and North Faces and boots."

ODU's Shae Kelley leaving program for Minnesota

We haven't made sense of the story yet, but Old Dominion's Shae Kelley is transferring to Minnesota for a final year of eligibility.

Former VCU Coach Marlene Stollings was hired last month to coach at Minnesota and former Lady Monarchs assistant Niki Dawkins is Stollings' assistant. Kelley is Stollings' first signee.

Kelley was all-everything last season for ODU, earning All-Conference USA honors. Kelley started every game for ODU and led the team in points, rebounds, steals, blocks, minutes free throws attempted and free-throws made. She would have been a strong contender for preseason CUSA Player of the Year.

Losing Kelley is a major blow to a Lady Monarchs team bringing in a highly touted recruiting class and will have West Virginia transfer Jennie Simms eligible.

Kelley, a Denver native, will be immediately eligible for the Gophers, as she graduated from ODU over the weekend and plans to pursue her master's at Minnesota. She will surely start for a team that returns two WBCA All-Americans in 5-9 guard Rachel Banham and 6-5 sophomore Amanda Zahui B of Sweden.

Here is ODU's release on the Kelley news. Minnesota also issued a release.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Has anybody asked the college athlete what she thinks about anything?

Leticia Romero

We have just one question: Has anybody asked the college athlete what she thinks?

About what, you ask? About anything important. You see we hear lots of higher ups -- the NCAA, coaches, administrators -- talking about what's best for the student-athlete. We rarely hear the college athlete talking, and if we do, it's just talk.

College athletes have no voice in a system that we're told is all about making it a better four years for them.

We offer some examples. Coach leaves for a brand new, better job that doubles, perhaps triples, her pay. Contract is broken. The athletes she recruited are told to stay put. They can't transfer to another school without asking, in some cases pleading, for their release.

Are we specifically talking about Marlene Stollings  departing VCU for Minnesota? Yes and no. Yes, because Stollings left a program behind that she promised to build, that she nicknamed Fury, that had nine newcomers on its roster last season. We honestly can't blame her for leaving pleasant Richmond behind for Minneapolis winters -- it's a more lucrative job in a better conference. We can blame the process that allows this to happens -- that allows coaches to switch schools without fulfilling their contracts. And yes, we feel for those kids who came to VCU likely for one reason: They wanted to play for Stollings. They don't have the option to transfer without losing a year of precious playing time.

Consider another case, the one of Leticia Romero. Romero, a freshman, came to Kansas State from Spain to play for Coach Deb Patterson. Patterson was fired at the end of this season. Romero wants to transfer. K-State won't allow it. And if she opts to sit out, the NCAA has ruled she would have to pay for that year. Yes, this is legal, as NCAA rules stipulate that athletes cannot receive scholarship aid from a new school unless their previous schools grants a one-time transfer exception request.

So you're a coach, you sit in a kid's living room, make promises if she'll sign on the bottom line. You leave -- and yes, we get it. Better jobs do come along. But why is the kid punished because a coach gets a more attractive offer and decides to take it? Does anyone believe Romero came to K-State for any other reason than to play for Patterson? Ditto for those VCU freshmen, who fit into the Stollings system and had to be excited for what another year would bring.

The critics, we suppose, would say if kids could transfer, they would; perhaps a coach could move a whole team to her new school. We counter with this. Perhaps, but let's get real. Often coaches leave for bigger programs; many of the kids they recruited couldn't earn a position on their new team. Furthermore, is it really logical let alone ethical to say a college athlete must remain at her original school when the coach has left for greener pastures or been fired?

Coaches take new jobs all the time, because after all, it's just business, we're told. Business in college athletics? You mean it's business for the coaches and athletic directors. It can't be business for the college athletes who don't draw a check, who don't have a voice in a system that is said to be all about them.

While college athletes are on committees that give input to the NCAA, when the doors are shut, when votes are recorded, they have no representative, they have no vote. They are outsiders in their own sport. While the transfer rule is among the most bothersome of the rules, others are equally confounding and blatantly insulting in their lack of regard for the college athlete. In our sport, for example, we're going backward when it comes to postseason play, returning to home sites for first- and second-round NCAA Tournament games, as that's what is best for the game and we're told the NCAA wants to give the student-athlete the best atmosphere in the postseason.

So let me ask you, James Madison Dukes, was it better to have played Texas A&M in the second round in a College Station arena full of Aggies fans or would you have preferred fewer people and a neutral court?

We can tell you what we think about this whole deal. We've got lots of thoughts about rules and decisions that are made on behalf of the college athlete. But we really want is to hear from the college athletes themselves. They play the game; they're smart enough to go to college after all. We bet they have plenty to say if anybody listened.