1974: women's hoops find their stride.

PART THREE ABOUT THE BEGINNING OF WOMEN'S SPORTS AT UCSC

 

It was 1974. UCSC basketball originals Sarajo Frieden, Gail Katz and Lynn Eber had transferred. Mary Bolesta had graduated. The only returners for the second edition of UCSC's women's team were Cindy Duncan, Janette Tom, Polly Gose, Carolyn Fank and Dian Smith. Coach Rich Kitchens, the men's coach, was at the helm. 

The second All-Cal women's basketball tourney was held at UC Davis in January. In the opening game, UCSC faced the flagship school UC Berkeley for a second time. In what might have become a good-natured rivalry, Duncan recalled, the Bears wanted nothing to do with the upstarts from Santa Cruz. "They (the Bears) were AIAW at the time and looking to move up to NCAA as soon as possible with the passage of Title IX in 1972," she said. "We (UCSC) essentially were nobody in only our second year in existence as a club team. We had six players.  We did not have uniforms. We wore old sleeveless male jerseys over our t-shirts. We camped on a friend's floor in Davis."

Among the six players UCSC had in Davis was Ann McCampbell, who had finished with classes at UCSC but was enrolled at UC Davis to get prepared for medical school. Since she was in the neighborhood, she was drafted to play for UCSC one more time.

"We didn't carry a lot of players, but they played very hard, and were consummate team players," said coach Rich Kitchens. "The Cal team was bigger, faster, and deeper than us. We looked scraggly by comparison."

Kitchens scheduled an away game against Cal in the old Hearst Women's Gym to begin the season. Cal handled the UCSC women easily, but things were different in Davis as somehow, the still-not-yet Banana Slugs stayed close.

"We were getting steals. I was hitting from the outside, Ann was driving to the basket and scoring layups, and Coach K's offense was working, or we were actually running it for a change," said Duncan. "Our zone D was moving well and irritating Berkeley. The best part was getting position on the boards. Polly was a beast inside. She and I loved to get inside and push the taller girls out with our bodies. Janette Tom played the best basketball of her short career. We all were communicating and into the game."

It was a one-possession game late despite UCSC having had a player foul out and being down to just five eligible players. That's when Janette Tom had a leg cramp and could not continue, leaving the squad with four players. Coach Kitchens called time out to discuss the rules with the referees and the tenor of the game took a sour turn.

Duncan and Tom recall, "Coach Kitchens, having spent all those hours in the library studying hoops, knew the rule. We were allowed to substitute a player who had fouled out for the injured player so as to maintain five players but there would be some repercussions at the foul line which would work in Berkeley's favor. We don't recall the exact details now, but Rich knew at the time." Kitchens recalls Berkeley's coach vehemently disagreeing with his rule interpretation. "The officials would not allow us to sub," he said. "Davis tournament administrative folks got involved and backed the Cal interpretation of the rule…to our detriment."

During all this time deliberating, Tom's cramp improved and she tried to return to the floor but couldn't finish the game. With just four players against five, Cal ended up holding on and winning 41-36.
"Sometime after the game," said Duncan, "Coach K got the rule book and guess what? He had been right. And, hell hath no fury like young scruffy lawyers-to-be wronged." (Tom, Duncan and Kitchens all went on to law school.)

Kitchens said "after we lost, I vaguely recall sending off letters to the head UCD honchos with the backing of our team advisor Terry Warner."

"What I remember is we almost beat UC Berkeley with six players who were short, and a bunch of nobodies with a coach who was learning the game from reading a book," said Duncan. "We were a tough group. I think the earlier blowout at Berkeley was part of the reason Cal was so disgusted that we almost beat them at Davis."

The next game against host UC Davis, coached by Duncan's old high school friend and mentor, Pam Gill, was in her words not pretty.

"I think we got demolished. Pam was a good rookie coach and her team was exceedingly well prepared. Perhaps the letdown of the Cal game got to us, but I think we just met a superior team."

There was the historic first-ever home game when UC Santa Barbara came to the East Fieldhouse winter quarter 1974. "It was truly an exciting moment in time," Duncan said. Carolyn Fank was at UCSB that quarter teaming with her twin sister Debbie, and helped arrange this meeting. "We got creamed. Something like 80-30," Duncan continued. "There was a phenomenal UCSB player named Brenda Sapp that must have had 15 steals and layups off turnovers in the game. Thinking back, I am wondering how Coach Kitchens kept his job after this game" she laughed. "But it was such a cool first! People actually filled the Fieldhouse to watch the UCSC women's team debut at home!"

The team participated in a tournament at the old Fort Ord in early Spring Quarter 1974. Fank was back from UCSB and on the squad after missing the All-Cals. Santa Cruz was beaten handedly by a very good De Anza College team but won against host Fort Ord.

"Rich could not be at this game so I was the player-coach," Duncan recalls. "We beat Ford Ord and then faced the legendary 1974 De Anza team, coached at the time by an acquaintance of ours, (future SJSU coach and California judge) Sharon Chatman.

"We traveled in Polly Gose's sweet '52 chevy, got lost on the Base, got stopped by Base police who then escorted us to the gym." Duncan continues, "What Janette and I both still chuckle about is the Fort Ord women telling us we all should join the military because all they did was play basketball and softball and we would love it. "I don't think they realized how involved in the UCSC counterculture and Vietnam War protests some of us were," said Duncan. "But sports has always been the great equalizer."

"This group was truly special. They were tight, tough, and talented," Kitchens said. "As a 'coach' I did little more than point them in a direction. They took it from there."

 

1973-74 UCSC BASKETBALL TEAM TODAY

Mary Bolesta-real estate agent living in Santa Cruz, taught abroad for 1 ½ years 

Cindy Duncan-retired lawyer, erstwhile poet/author living in Nor Cal 

Lynn Eber-Finance Director/CPA now living in Colorado

Carolyn Fank-lawyer in Los Angeles

Sarajo Frieden-artist in Los Angeles

Paulette (Polly) Gose-worked in early childhood education, now a realtor in Hawai'i

Gail Katz -movie Producer/Cinema professor in Los Angeles

Ann McCampbell- doctor/author living in New Mexico.

Dian Smith-  former Fire Chief with CalFire. Elementary teacher. Sax enthusiast living in Ukiah.

Janette Tom-retired CEB lawyer living in the Bay Area