With only one returning starter, Pacific Lutheran College’s 1954-55 basketball team wasn’t predicted to have a good year.
But, against all odds, the team ended up playing the second most successful season in PLC history up to that time – and became known as a “Cinderella team.”
Celebrating the team’s 50th anniversary, the five starters – Al Gubrud ’56, Jack Hoover ’56, Nick Kelderman ’57, Phil Nordquist ’56 and Jack Sinderson ’58 – and their coach, Marv Harshman ’42, reunited in Olson Auditorium in August to reminisce about the old basketball days.
“They were what you would call a ‘we’ team,” said Harshman, who coached at PLU for 13 years, including football, basketball and baseball. “Everybody was very much a part of it. No one tried to do their own thing; it was a team effort.”
“We just ran together and made the play,” added Kelderman. “There were no real stars. Marv gave us great direction and we followed it.”
That attitude is what tied the team for the championship title that year and – even though they lost the final game to get to nationals – it served as the launching pad for the best series of basketball teams in PLU history from 1955-1964.
The players remember the excitement of the crowds filling the stands in Memorial Gym and band playing “When the Saints Go Marching In” as they entered the court.
“It got us fired up,” Hoover said.
The team won another championship in 1956 and then went three straight years, 1957, 1958 and 1959, without losing a game in league play and took four trips to nationals.
“The success was much greater than anyone anticipated,” said Nordquist, who retired from teaching history at PLU in May. “I think we played exceedingly well as a team and that’s why we won.”
But, for Nordquist, it isn’t the team’s wins that impress him most, but rather how the players’ success continued in life – a testament to the ideals of PLU. The team includes four Ph.D.s, five college professors, two Lutheran pastors, one university administrator, three high school teachers and one of the three first Americans to climb Mt. Everest.
“What strikes me now is how well everyone turned out academically and professionally,” Nordquist said.
Starters for the 1955 basketball team recreated the photo 50 years later. From left, Nick Kelderman ’57, Phil Nordquist ’56, Jack Hoover ’56, Al Gubrud ’56, Jack Sinderson ’58 and coach Marv Harshman ’42 gathered on campus.
Hacker’s coaching success lands her in NAIA Hall of Fame
The most successful women’s soccer coach in the history of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame in November.
Colleen Hacker was inducted during the opening banquet of the NAIA Women’s Soccer National Championships in Olathe, Kan.
Hacker had coached field hockey since arriving at PLU in 1979 but became the head soccer coach two years later when PLU dropped that sport and made soccer a varsity sport. She had never played or coached soccer before.
She stayed with the team for 15 years, during which the Lutes compiled a 233-59-18 win-loss-tie record, won the Northwest Conference title 10 times, claimed five straight NAIA District 1 and NAIA West Region crowns, and played for the NAIA national championship five consecutive years. The Lutes won the national title in 1988, 1989 and 1991, and finished as the runner-up in 1990 and 1992.
Her win total remains to this day the NAIA record, and her .781 winning percentage is currently sixth all-time. She was named the conference Coach of the Year five times, the NAIA District 1 Coach of the Year seven times, is a four-time NAIA/NSCAA West Region Coach of the Year and four times was named the NAIA/NSCAA National Coach of the Year. She was inducted into the PLU Athletic Hall of Fame this year.
Hacker joined the coaching staff of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team in 1996 and continues to serve as the team’s sport psychologist. She is also an assistant dean in the School of Physical Education.