Frank Szymanski, the women's basketball coach at Loyola, is confident that the Greyhounds' second decade in Division I will be more successful than their first.
Loyola last had a winner in 1979-80, two years before the college moved up to Division I. In its first 10 seasons in Division I, Loyola won fewer than one-fourth of its games, going 64-200 from 1981-91. Szymanski came on board in 1987, and the situation was improving before a switch from the Northeast Conference to the Metro Atlantic.
After Maryland in the ACC, Loyola is the only women's team in the state that plays in a conference whose champion has an automatic bid to the NCAA Division I tournament. The level of competition in the MAAC was a shock to the Greyhounds, who won one game there and six overall the last two seasons.
"I recruited seven players for the Northeast Conference before we moved to the MAAC," Szymanski said. "It's a big step up in competition. Recruiting has been different for us recently, and we've got eight, nine, 10 players that know basketball. That means competition in practice."
The Greyhounds are more competitive in games, too. They've been soundly whipped by nationally ranked Maryland and George Washington, and were also handled by Towson State and Notre Dame, but Loyola improved to 4-5 last Saturday at Iona, equaling last year's win total. Loyola doesn't play its home opener until next Monday, against La Salle.
"We haven't played any home games yet, and in a way, that's been good," Szymanski said. "We've have so many new players, and they were able to get to know each other on the road."
Loyola starts two freshmen, and two others share the point guard position.
Patty Stoffey, a 5-foot-10 forward from Pottsville, Pa., is the leading scorer (14.7 average) and rebounder (8.8). Patty Taylor, a 6-footer from Mendham, N.J., took over at center when veteran ** Justine Shay went down with a preseason injury. Camille Joyner, from Largo High in Prince George's County, and Pennsylvanian Colleen Colsher are splitting the point.
"It's been difficult teaching the players here they can win, because the program has been down for so long," Szymanski said. "The freshman class makes a difference, because most of them came from very successful high school programs. They're not accustomed to losing, and they let you know it."
* Mount St. Mary's junior Rob Pendergist, the IC4A decathlon champion in 1991, has secured an invitation to a special three-event competition -- high jump, shot put and 300 meters -- at the Hamilton Spectator Games in Ontario, Canada, tomorrow. He'll be excused if he's star-struck by the field, which includes reigning world decathlon champion Dan O'Brien and two-time Olympic gold medalist Daley Thompson.
Pendergist is looking to qualify for the Olympic Trials in New Orleans in July, along with several other men with local ties. Heading the list of Olympic prospects is Morgan State product Jack Pierce, the silver medalist in the 110 hurdles at last year's world championships.
Despite that accomplishment, Pierce ranked only fifth in Track & Field News world rankings for 1991. The U.S. list includes two Baltimore Countians: Woodlawn grad Torrance Zellner, a junior at Florida, ranked eighth in the 400 hurdles, and Milford Mill's Tony Barton, who has completed his eligibility at George Mason, slipped to ninth in the high jump.
John Scherer, Glenelg High class of 1984, stands No. 8 in the U.S. rankings in the 10,000.
* Debbie Tripp does a little of everything for UMBC.
A graduate of Seton Keough High, Tripp shifted between goalkeeper and sweeper for the Retrievers' soccer team last fall. In the spring, she plays first base for the fledgling softball program. She's also involved during basketball games, when she picks up her trumpet and helps out the UMBC pep band.
* Most local basketball teams are glad to be heading into conference play. Minus Maryland and Coppin State, the state's seven other Division I teams are a combined 15-61, with flimsy home schedules one reason for the futility. The conference competition has to play the same game, so winning percentages will go up in the next six weeks.
* Randolph-Macon's Harry Murn, a junior defensive back out of Loyola High, was named to the Virginia College Division all-state team . . . The women's swim team at UMBC had the nation's second-best cumulative grade-point average in 1990-91. The Retrievers' lofty 3.27 effort was bettered only by Xavier . . . Matt Gabriel, Loyola's fine-looking freshman guard, is out for the rest of the season with a stress fracture in his left tibia.