Since it is both Women’s History Month and college basketball tournament time, Stacks talks women’s college basketball at (of all places) Antioch College. Unlike most intercollegiate team sports, women college students actually began playing basketball about the same time as men did. Just weeks after Dr. James Naismith introduced the game he invented to the boys in his gym class at the Springfield, Massachusetts YMCA in 1892, Smith College physical education director Senda Berenson taught the new game to her students, though with a few rule modifications to keep the game socially acceptable and to reduce whatever “nervous fatigue” such a strenuous game might induce in her girls. Among the changes Berenson made were limiting the number of dribbles a player could make (three) and sectioning off the court into three areas to which players were assigned and could not cross over. Her game also featured nine players to a team instead of the customary five. Berenson’s rules may have helped to popularize basketball among women, and several variations of the game proliferated across the Eastern United States, most notably “basquette,” a six on six version that allowed only designated players shoot the ball.
It seems that basquette was what Antioch College women played, judging by the six players listed in box score that appeared in the March 1915 issue of The Antiochian, and by the fact that all of the shots recorded were taken by a single player, Nell Miller, class of 1917. The College’s monthly magazine is about the only source for the details of Antioch athletics, so seasons are often covered in digest form. Sadly the only games covered that year were both losses, and so, with apologies to ABC’s Wide World of Sports for stealing a tagline, and to counteract the agony of defeat with the thrill of victory, Stacks also includes bonus coverage from the 1916 season, which appears to have been an unblemished one.
From The Antiochian, March 1915:
ANTIOCH GIRLS DEFEATED BY GREENEVILLE HIGH SCHOOL
The girls have not been idle this winter and have been practicing faithfully every week. But there is not much incentive to play when the faculty will not allow them to schedule any intercollegiate games. The faculty finally came to a different viewpoint and a game was arranged between our bunch and Greeneville High School, which was played in Xenia and resulted in the defeat of our girls.
The Greenville girls claim the championship of the state and they surely lived up to their reputation in this game. Our team was seriously crippled due to the absence of two of their star players, but we “fought a good fight.” The whole team deserves great credit for the plucky manner in which they tried to stem the tide. With a little more practice we will have a fine team. The work of Captain Sullivan, Miller, and Drake is especially to be commended.
ANTIOCH 20, CEDARVILLE 22
On the same night that the boys were taking the Cedarville boys into camp to the tune o0f 52 to 24, the girls were beaten 22 to 20. It was anyone’s game until the blow of the whistle. A girls’ game usually lags, but there was great excitement in this one. Miller again starred for Antioch, and Loe played a mighty fine guarding game, as did also Drake.
Antioch 20 Pos. Cedarville 24
Miller R.F. Burns
Sullivan L.F. Gardner
Armstrong F.C. Summers
McCall R.C. Baumgardner
Loe R.G. Wright
Drake L.G. Collins
Field Goals—Miller 10, Burns 6, Gardner 2.
Goals from Foul—Gardner 6.
From The Antiochian “Commencement Number”, May-June 1916:
MANAGER, MILLER. CAPTAIN, ARMSTRONG.
Although occupying only a minor part in the athletic activities of the school, the girls basket-ball record for the season 1915-16 is worthy of favorable mention.
The team, which was composed of three Seniors and three Juniors, won every game they played. The following wscores will show by what favorable margins most of them were won:
December 17, 1915—Antioch 16, Cedarville 10.
January 8, 1916—Antioch 15, Cedarville 4.
February 5, 1916—Antioch 15, Yellow Springs Girls, 5.
February 12, 1916—Antioch 25, Springfield Y.W.C.A.
March 4, 1916—Antioch 20, Dayton Y.W.C.A. 8.
March 11, 1916—Antioch 20, Otterbein 9.
March 18, 1916—Antioch 24, Springfield Y.W.C.A. 9.
More interest was shown this year by the girls than for several years previous to this one. They were always faithful at practice, and with consent of the faculty were allowed more games than ever before. We hope for such spirit and success again next year. It will be hard indeed to fill the places of the Senior members, for our opponents have found it almost impossible to score against the guarding of Ruth Patton and Genevieve Drake, while Mary Sullivan’s quickness and excellent pass-work always won praise.