Mighty Macs

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Mighty Macs
Basketball • Immaculata

The Immaculata College Mighty Macs, from the tiny Catholic women's school in Malvern, won their first championship (the first national collegiate tournament for women ever played) in 1972, when the game was still emerging from the age of "separate spheres." AAU teams had played fullcourt for years, but college ball had just graduated from archaic "women's rules," which restricted players to half of the court and three dribbles. Most teams still played in skirts. The national tournament was such a novel idea that few reporters knew it was happening. One Philadelphia sportswriter who heard Immaculata had won the first championship told his colleagues, "I didn't even know they had gone full-court." But in 1974, after two more national trophies, the whole country could follow the Mighty Macs, as reporters flocked to their games. The team had stars, such as Rene Muth Portland, now head coach of the Penn State Lady Lions. The Mighty Macs also had 1974 Player of the Year, Theresa Shank and All-American Marianne Crawford, whom one sportswriter called the best point guard in Philly, male or female. They had a young, visionary coach, Cathy Rush, who imported men's game strategies like picks and presses to beat bigger schools with scholarship players and well-funded programs. The team also had a following. At Mighty Mac games, reporters couldn't get enough of the Immaculate Heart nuns, the team's biggest fans. Dressed in identical blue habits and veils, the sisters weren't above cheering or ref-baiting. One reporter was amazed to watch as a sister stood and in her shrillest falsetto yelled, "Watch the pick and roll!". Observers said the most compelling thing about the Mighty Macs, though, was that they seemed to love to play.
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