The first girls basketball team celebrated victory 45 years later
MONTGOMERY – Earlier this year a great accomplishment was recognized in women’s team sports at Montgomery High School. Michael C. Snyder, Director of Athletics at Montgomery Area School District called upon the 1973 Red Raiders Basketball team to come forward and accept a championship banner to hang on the wall in the Sports Complex gymnasium of the Montgomery Community and Athletic Center.
The quest for validation began with Jocelyn Taylor Thomas, a resident and former team member. She contacted Snyder in October of 2017 with a letter about their Lower West Branch Championship seeking a Lady Raiders Championship Banner.
“They went door to door to get a petition signed to start the team, then won the league championship in 1973 and again in 1975,” Snyder announced during the recognition ceremony. That was 45 years ago, a moment in history for girls’ sports.
“I remember while canvassing the town, one resident asked if by signing the petition, would his taxes go up?” said Thomas as she reflected back to when they had to raise money for their uniforms. “My mother, and I’m sure other parents, attended a school board meeting asking why our team should pay for uniforms when the boys weren’t required to do so. Our practices were set up around the boys schedule,” Thomas said. “The superintendent at that time requested that those who were interested in forming a new girls basketball team, were to petition the town for their approval.”
Peggy McCarty Dunlap of Allenwood said she played on the team during her sophomore year in 1968-69. “I was too old to belong to a club in school called the “Y-Teens.” Back then girls would go to the YWCA or YMCA and play basketball on Saturdays against other Y-teen clubs. “It was very crude, and we really didn’t have a coach, just a few volunteer referees.”
Dunlap’s love of the sport inspired her to ask her gym teacher, Mrs. Kathryn Revello, why girls couldn’t play sports against other schools like the boys did. “I don’t remember her exact answer, but she suggested starting a petition and getting signatures.”
Some people were more than happy to sign, and others refused for whatever reason according to Dunlap. “I know we had lots of sheets of paper filled with a lot of signatures.” She recalls being called to the school superintendent’s office, where Robert F. Schultz asked to look over the list of petitions and inquired what they hoped to do with all of the signatures. After reading them, he asked the girls a few questions and then to their amazement, he signed his name to the list. Then he asked, “Would you like me to present these to the school board?”
By 1971 a few sports were approved for the girls, but unfortunately basketball wasn’t one of them. Dunlap said it was quite a let-down to the girls at the time, but they were able to get bowling and tennis started. “Mrs. Revello was our coach and she took us to our games in her own car,” Dunlap said. “At least it was a beginning.”
Once the legislation of Title IX opened up in 1972, more sports arrived, and in 1973 the girls were told they could have a basketball team. “I don’t remember going to a game wondering what the outcome would be, I just wanted to get out there and play,” Dunlap said with excitement.
Sandra Shrey Morral who graduated in 1975 remembers when girls tennis first opened up in 1973 and credits Title IX to allow her to play sports in high school. She started with track. “The boys had varsity jackets, and we got theirs that were left over,” explained Morral who now resides in Mt. Joy, Pennsylvania. “As seniors, though, we did get letters and pins.”
She remembers getting some recognition in ’75 for the Lady Raiders basketball team championship. “We got a small basketball, trophies and a banquet at the end of the season.” She also recalls that in ’75, her senior year, 90 girls tried out for the basketball team. “Back then, the word ‘tomboy’ was a negative term. We played in districts before the season began, and they were a non-organized league.” They did not have all of the different divisions that are available for girls today. “We did play Milton, although it was a larger school,” she said. “And we attended basketball camp in the summer.”
Morral added that she went on to play basketball for one year when she attended Juniata College.
In 1974, the Women’s Sports Foundation was created by Billie Jean King in order to increase the participation of girls and women in sports and fitness, and “to create an educated public that supports gender equity in sport.”
The Lower West Branch league is currently non-existent, but Thomas said she and the others are proud of “re-establishing the Lady Raiders basketball team.” They recall playing against teams from Muncy, S. Williamsport, Bishop Neuman, Warrior Run and Hughesville. “There are more opportunities now for the girls’ leagues to develop skills,” said Morral.
The team players attested that they have much to remember now. Many said they wished they could have played while they attended elementary school. “Girls today are a lot stronger,” they said. “They have more skills, because they have more opportunities at a much younger age.”
Members of the Red Raiders team of 1973 were coach Kathy Revello, Peggy McCarthy Dunlap, Audrey Umpstead Costill, Jocelyn Taylor Thomas, the late Joan Crawford, Sally Morehart Pauling, Jean Sesselberg, Roxy Berger, Sandy Shrey Morral, Denise Taylor, and Mary Temple.