MPS Athletic History

By William Bengel

In researching this article, this first thing I discovered was that records for the pre-70s era are very sketchy. The Great Depression and World War II impacted on the information available in yearbooks and student newspapers. There just wasn’t enough money and materials to devote space to athletic accomplishments. Athletic programs had not yet reached the status afforded them in today’s society and therefore less attention was paid to the activities portion of the overall educational program. The school’s records on the ’50s and ’60s are also somewhat limited.

The second discovery coming from this research was that the athletic program at Mercyhurst Prep has come a long way since the days of the “Sems.”

Athletics Pre-1970

According to the yearbook, the 1929 basketball season was described as “the keenest in school history.” The team, coached by Mr. Frank Schwab, finished the season with a 7-4 record. The season highlight was a 35-3 victory over St. Edwards.

At the end of the ’30s, the Seminary’s athletic offerings included: tennis, swimming, volleyball, field hockey and basketball. Many of the games involved spirited competitions between classes and just a few competitions against teams from other schools. Each year the big field hockey game was against The Park School of Buffalo. The 1938 basketball game against St. Benedict’s Academy was canceled because the Seminary faculty felt the rivalry caused a “physical output that interfered with lessons.” The “extra-mural” season featured two victories over Cranesville.

During the ’40s, field hockey was a very popular sport. The 1945-46 basketball season must have been a tough one. The memory book sends out a “rah rah’ to Miss Weary who led the Sems through “many a trying game.. The 1947-48 basketball team finished with a 5-3-2 record. (That’s right? – Two ties!) The big game of the year was the contest with St Benedict’s, which ended in a tie. (So much for the next day’s lessons!)

Mr. Ted Fuhrman coached the Sems to an 8-3 record during the 1963 basketball season. The offense was paced by Janet Reiser, Judy Rutkowski and Corrine Vickey. Defensive strategy revolved around Betty Hulick, Judy Williams and Kathy Meyers. (How many remember the three offensive, three defensive players format for girls’ basketball?. The 1966 team, coached by Mr. Clemens Lynch, claimed an exciting 27-25 win over St. Benedict’s. In ’68, Sue Finnegan led Mercyhurst to a city championship.

Certainly there were other athletic events of significance between 1926 and 1970, but the school’s records are very incomplete. If you can supply any additional information, I hope you will let us know.

The 1970s – Change is in the Air

The decade of the ’70’s saw greater emphasis placed on school’s co-curricular activities as educators saw the importance of supplementing classroom learning with meaningful after school programs. With the admission of male students in 1974, the activities program at Mercyhurst Prep began to expand in order to keep pace with increased interest on the part of both male and female students. The school colors officially became Kelly green and white and the athletic nickname “Lakers” was adopted.

In 1974, the girls’ tennis team, led by captain Anne Kelly, posts an impressive 13-1 record and claims a Metro championship. The squad was coached by Mrs. W. Kelly. The boys’ tennis team follows suit in 1976 when Mr. Chuck Stachera coached the team to a perfect 14-0 season and a Metro championship. Dennis Borczon, Mark Baginski and Ravinder Sabherwal go undefeated in match play. Mark Baginski and Ravinder Sabherwal met for the District 10 championship in 1978 while Matt Gregory and Joe LoCastro did the same in 1980. Mary Dailey claimed a District 10 championship for the girls’ program in 1978 and Wendy Sturm became Mercyhurst’s first state champion when she won the tennis championship that same year.

Bridget Whalen was a member of the 1975 volleyball team that claims the Upper Allegheny Valley League championship. Mercyhurst’s Gil Thorpe, Chuck Stachera coached the squad to a very successful season.

The first boys’ basketball team took the floor during the 1974-75 season. The team was coached by Mr. Joe Cook and competed in a conference comprised of private schools from Buffalo and Canada. At the conclusion of the first season of competition, the team posted a 9-4 record. The very next year the team is awarded a spot in the PIAA District 10 tournament.

In 1977, Ed Zenewicz took over the reigns of the boys’ program. Coach Zenewicz would lead the Lakers to several UAVL championships before Mercyhurst is admitted to the Metro League. In that same seaso