When Betsy Given entered the game against Mount St. Mary's on Dec. 8 in the last two minutes, she made it official. When she scored Loyola's last two points of a 63-45 win with 18 seconds left, she added an exclamation point to the win and to her rare achievement.
In an age of athletic specialization, Given had just become a three-sport, Division I varsity athlete. And she's not merely participating in the same sport year-round, like a runner in cross country and indoor and outdoor track. She's playing three different games -- soccer, lacrosse and basketball.
She will be on the bench tonight when the Greyhounds (3-4) play host to No. 6 Maryland (4-1).
That Given is able to play and excel in multiple sports at the scholarship level is a tribute not only to her ability but to the flexibility of the coaches involved.
Diane Aikens, Loyola's senior women's athletic administrator, is also the lacrosse coach who brought Given, a junior, to Loyola on a partial scholarship for lacrosse. She has encouraged Given's versatility.
"I'm a promoter of women in sport," Aikens said. "It takes coaches like myself to realize that it's my career but not their career. They're not going to come out of college and get rich playing one sport like some of the men do."
Given has the experience to try it. She started for three years in each of the three sports at Broadneck High School and was The Evening Sun's Female Athlete of the Year as a senior in 1989, when she was also the area's Lacrosse Player of the Year. As a senior, she was third-team All-Metro in basketball and honorable mention in soccer. She played Junior Olympic basketball on a traveling team each summer.
Even then, people were amazed. "Everyone said, 'You're crazy. Why are you doing that to yourself?' " Given said. "You don't understand something until you've gone through it. I learned how to prioritize things."
As a two-year starter in lacrosse at Loyola, she has 23 goals and 15 assists. As a sophomore, she also played club soccer. But when the Greyhounds moved the women's soccer program to Division I last fall, Given started all 19 games at both midfield and forward positions. She tied for second in scoring, with eight goals and six assists, on an 11-6-2 team that finished second in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. She was named to the MAAC all-tournament team and had three game-winning goals.
"She's the kind of person who wants to be on the field the entire time," said soccer coach Dave Gerrity. "If Betsy wanted to play four sports here, I think she could do it. She has that kind of drive."
It was first-year basketball coach Pat Coyle who first broached the idea of Given's playing basketball. She'd seen her play in pickup games and was impressed by her athleticism, her quickness and her hustle. Coyle talked to Aikens about it.
After Thanksgiving break, Coyle approached Given. "She asked if I wanted to play basketball," Given said. "I said maybe next year. She said, 'I want you on the team this year.' I got the weirdest feeling inside. I got real excited."
Given hasn't played organized basketball in three years and says her skills are rusty. But even if she doesn't get the playing time she hopes for immediately, Coyle thinks she'll help the team.
"The biggest thing is her leadership," Coyle said.