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A Celebration of 50 Years of Longhorn Women's Basketball

Debi Albrecht '85 | Tuesday, January 29, 2019

On Saturday December 1st 2018, Lutheran West celebrated the 50th anniversary of the women’s basketball program. Having just celebrated the 50th anniversary of our wrestling program last year, the same type of program was borrowed that Coach Ressler successfully organized. It had its beginnings in January of 2018 during Christmas break. Women’s basketball alumnae were invited back to support the Lady Longhorns as they took on the Western Reserve Academy Pioneers. Thirty players returned to campus to support the Longhorns, and the sharing of memories and friendships rekindled increased the desire for a 50th anniversary celebration. To everyone’s delight, the celebration was planned and took place 11 months later in December 2018.

The festivities began with the current teams taking on the Fireland Falcons. Alumni players were given complimentary tickets to witness the varsity Longhorns win a close game with a final score of 48-46. The main hallways displayed 50 years worth of memorabilia, including newspaper articles, pictures, and trophies coordinated by former coach Karen Wittrock and the event planning team. Karen’s infamous scrapbooks, which she compiled for every year she coached (1967-2008), were a sight to behold. They included newspaper articles, pictures from games, letters from other coaches, and pre-game basketball team dinner photos. She has generously donated these books to Lutheran West so that players past, present, and future can appreciate the rich history of Lutheran West women’s basketball. If an alumna is interested in having one from her playing time, please contact Debi Albrecht, Lutheran West Alumni Director, at Apparel hung from every inch of the main hallway to the Hessler Commons -- Top Thirty Basketball Camp t-shirts, summer camps apparel, t-shirts celebrating Karen’s milestone wins, and vintage uniforms told the story of how far we have come. Guided tours of the campus amazed alumni and their families as they walked through familiar hallways as well as the newer portions of the building. They especially loved seeing that the main gym has been named in honor of Karen: The Wittrock Gymnasium, more affectionately called “The Rock.” Once the current team rejoined the players, a catered dinner was served by local company Well Done Catering. Following the game, over 130 people attended the dinner portion of the evening. It was especially heartwarming to see the dads that accompanied their daughters. Close to 2,000 pictures were displayed in slideshows during dinner. Coach Wittrock took the time and energy to make sure every player, coach, manager, statistician, scorekeeper, and volunteer was included and recognized.

The Jochum Performing Arts Room was the perfect venue to celebrate the history of women’s sports. Varsity basketball coaches (Karen Wittrock, Josh Campbell, and Trey Senney) and players from five decades shared their experiences and memories on stage. Stories were told of early players pulling together to hold bake sales and carwashes to raise funds to rent gym time off campus. Soon after, teams practiced on campus but only in hallways because gym time was not available for women’s basketball. The mindset changed after the team competed at the state level in 1976, where the women lost the state championship game by a mere two points after Carla Shimek sunk a half-court shot! Finally, the women’s team was given gym time -- after the boys practices were completed. Hallway practices still continued for years as did layups at the lights. A winning tradition soon became synonymous with Lutheran West women’s basketball.

The memories shared on December 1 spanned fifty years, but the message was consistent -- Coach Wittrock had an undeniable passion for the sport of basketball, for developing female athletes, and for our Lord. Her passion was contagious. It showed in the Longhorns’ records, but also in the caliber of women that graduated having played for her. Striving for excellence was inhaled at each practice, game, and meeting. Our women’s basketball players are taught not only to be better basketball players, but also to be exceptional leaders, teammates, friends, and Christians. Coach Campbell and, most recently, Coach Senney have continued this commitment to quality in the years that followed Karen’s retirement.

Please enjoy the following photos from the event, as well as the full video of the presentation, available here. If anyone was in attendance and would like to share their photos, please email them to Debi Albrecht '85 at 

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Karen's coaching career stats were displayed at the event:


Lutheran West
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Rocky River, Ohio 44116-4099

Phone: 440.333.1660
Fax: 440.333.1729

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