Inside HOKIE SPORTS | Vol. 14 No. 6 | June 2022

ATHLETICSANNUALREPORT WOMEN’S BASKETBALL The Early Years: Alfano Lays Foundation for Virginia Tech WBB Program —WBB Coach Kenny Brooks and his current players travel to games in a charter bus, fly to select tournaments in a charter plane, and enjoy state-of-the-art locker, weight, and video rooms. Privileges and perks available to the current team are, however, worlds apart from those experienced by players in the early years of the VT Women’s Basketball program—building years in which the program’s humble yet rock-hard foundation was established by the matriarch of VT women’s basketball, Coach Carol Alfano. A Hall of Fame player herself (Long Branch High School, Long Branch, NJ & Morris Harvey College, now University of Charleston, WV), Alfano began her career as a physical education teacher at her high school alma mater and thought she was going to teach high school PE forever. She signed on as head coach of Long Branch’s struggling girls’ basketball team and missed only one game her first season due to the flu. “It was the only game the team won that year,” Alfano recalls with a laugh. Despite a rocky introduction into the world of coaching, Alfano “got hooked” on a career path that would have her stepping onto the VT campus in 1978 to become the third women’s basketball coach in the first three years of the then new varsity sport. Let the foundational work begin. Alfano’s tenure at Tech began at a time in which Title IX was a muchdebated issue and before women’s basketball was part of the NCAA. She faced challenges unheard of in today’s modern times, including being allocated the visiting men’s team’s locker room—complete with urinals—and being provided with no funding for an assistant coach, recruiting, or even practice gear. Her plight, an all-too-common sign of the times, was not unique to VT, as other new women’s programs across the country were facing similar challenges. Over her 19-year career (1978-97) at Tech and, as women’s sports in general continued on a path toward the respect and equity it deserves, not only did Alfano have a winning record, but she successfully navigated the administrative and logistical challenges inherent in women’s sports at the time. Under her leadership, the women’s teams did accrue impressive facilities and achieved notable successes such as defeating #5 ODU (1985) and Coach Geno Auriema’s perennial powerhouse, University of Connecticut (1988), as well as coaching her team to a Metro Tournament Championship (1993-94) in a 24-6 season. Alfano should be praised for her mentorship in the grooming of her two successors, Bonnie Hendrickson (VT WBB Head Coach, 1997-04; her other positions include Kansas and University of California, Santa Barbara) and Beth Dunkenberger (VT WBB Head Coach 2004-11; her other positions include University of Florida, Western Carolina, Tulane, & Miami). Both Hendrickson and Dunkenberger served as assistants at Tech under Alfano before taking the helm themselves, and both have since coached at a number of universities across the nation. Alfano’s legacy as women’s basketball matriarch lives on not only in the Cassell, but in women’s basketball across the country in the coaches and players whose lives she has touched. Connect with WBB Director, Jamie Little– ’89 (, for more on activities for alumni athletes from the WBB program. LACROSSE From Australia, Lacrosse Alumnae, Kate Threadgold—’04, interacted during the covid-era with LAX Director, Kris Longo—’04 ( for the Q&A presented below. Kris Longo (KL): Kate, tell us a little about you! Kate Threadgold (KT): I started playing lacrosse late at the age of 15 coming from a basketball background. It didn’t take long to fall in love with the sport. I was fortunate to win a scholarship to VT after touring the US with the U19 Australian team and going on to play in the U19 World Cup. I was only eligible for 3 years at VT as I had already completed 2 years of university here in Australia. I wish I’d had four years but am incredibly grateful for the opportunity at all! VT was a life-changing experience and some of the best and hardest times of my life. I don’t get to play much LAX these days due to family commitments and distance but I’m still active enjoying playing basketball, surfing, and surf-boat rowing. I cannot wait to get back over to VT again in the future and show my hubby and groms the amazing facilities and where so many memories were made. KL: What was unique about your experiences being a collegiate athlete vs. that in Australia? KT: EVERYTHING!!! We don’t really have collegiate sport here in Australia. It’s all club based, and you are often playing in the league teams in your teens. So as a young 16-year-old, you’re often lining up against 4-time World Cup 30+year-olds with vast experience and a heap of accolades to their names. It’s pretty cool and quite humbling really. It definitely makes you work harder and be both mentally and physically tougher early. We definitely don’t train every day, maybe twice a week, so that was different, but I loved it! KL: What is your fondest memory at VT? KT: The life-long friendships I have made and all of the surrogate families that took me in under their wings. I can’t thank all my VT families enough for all they did for me and the huge amounts of love they provided. Without sounding like a dinosaur, remember this was before Facetime/Zoom, Facebook and Instagram and the best forms of communication I had with mates and family back in Australia were phone calls and emails, and the time difference was big. I really was on my own a long way from home. Oh, and my first experience with snow and sleet... not as soft as I expected... note to self don’t jump over the snow to the path.... it’s a trick!!! You will land on your fanny and BLOODY HARD! KL: Did you continue involvement in LAX after leaving VT and returning to Australia? KT: I sure did. I came home to continue playing LAX at League level, State level (i.e., once a year each state selects their best team to represent and play off at a National Competition), and Australian Teams. VT gave me so much and I felt privileged and honored to go back and share with my Club teams and also coach juniors. I would still be playing but I’ve left the city and now live in a small coastal town about an hour and a half away. This was okay to commute at first, but once the babies came along my time went into mumming and travel became too hard. I definitely miss it a lot and do throw on a guernsey every now and then, now that the groms are a little older and can stay on the sideline rather than running on the field chasing mummy. KL: What was it like playing with the Australian National Team? KT: It was amazing and an absolute honor. Playing in the U19 World Cup relatively new to LAX was such an unforgettable experience. It gave me the opportunity to travel around the World for the first time and play a whole new level of LAX! Stepping up to Seniors brought a