How do you explain a streak of winning basketball seasons that spans more than four decades? Players? Coaches? Fans? Tradition? In the case of the Green Bay women’s basketball team, the answer is all of the above, plus one. Family.
Green Bay secured its 42nd-consecutive winning season this year, trailing only Tennessee (45) for the longest active streak in the nation. Green Bay’s streak includes 20-straight conference titles and 18 NCAA Tournament appearances. The Phoenix also secured its 20th-consecutive 20-plus win season in 2018-19, a streak that dates back to 1999-00.
Since the program’s inception in 1973-1974, the “Phoenix women’s basketball family” owns a 1,005-349 record — a .750 winning percentage. Through it all, the program has only had three head coaches — Carol Hammerle (25 seasons), Matt Bollant (5) and current Head Coach Kevin Borseth (15).
But maybe more impressive is the legacy left by the players in the program, who go on to spread the Phoenix philosophy to teams locally and nationwide. A quick look at past rosters and present coaches shows more than 35 former Phoenix who have gone on to leave their mark in the high school and college coaching ranks — from All-American guard Pam Roecker, ’83 (Communication) now an athletics dean on the East Coast and a national women’s basketball color commentator, to Kati (Harty) Coleman ’09, who led the Bay Port High School girls program to its first-ever WIAA State Championship in March 2019, to Sara (Boyer) Rohde ’04, ’13 (Elementary Education, Masters in Applied Leadership), head coach for Green Bay Notre Dame Academy High School, who has back-to-back WIAA State Championships (2013, 2014) on her coaching resume. And, let’s not forget Lavesa (Glover) Verhagen ’09 (Communication) who coached her Orono High School (Minnesota) team to a 3A State Championship in 2017.
Rohde ranks among Green Bay’s all-time three-point shooters. But she’s also made quite a mark in the high school coaching ranks. The transition to coaching comes naturally. “The biggest thing is that all of us love basketball and competing,” she said. “Unfortunately, you can’t keep playing it for the rest of your life.” So, you do the next-best thing and coach at the high school or collegiate level.” In seven seasons at Green Bay’s Notre Dame Academy, Rohde’s teams are 155-53.
“A lot of what I do I learned at Green Bay. My coaching has evolved in that I do a lot of what we did in college, but I’ve also learned from others and taken little bits and pieces and implemented them into my own strategy.” Intangibles picked up under the tutelage of Coach Borseth have been important to Rohde’s coaching success.
“You have expectations to live up to at UW-Green Bay from every year previous,” she explained. “You get a sense of commitment, work ethic. I have been trying to instill that with our girls. You teach the upperclassmen how to be good leaders and set a good example for the young kids. Let them know the expectations of the program.”
Celeste (Hoewisch) Ratka ’11 (Human Biology), who played for and coached with Bollant, ranks in the Top 10 in a number of categories. In three seasons leading her alma mater — Hortonville High School — Ratka’s teams are 59-21 overall, with trips to State in each of those three seasons.
“I’ve learned that your system is very important, but more importantly, it comes back to your culture,” she said. “What your core principles are and what you believe in as a team. We just did things differently at Green Bay and I think that’s why we were as successful as we were. There’s a tremendous culture at Green Bay that feeds itself,” she said. “Each group of players who come in just takes it to another level. It’s because nobody wants to let down the people before them, their teammates, their coaches or the community.”
Green Bay Southwest varsity coach Erin (Templin) Barkley ’09 (Elementary Education) has turned a struggling program into one that advanced to the WIAA regionals for three seasons. She believes success breeds success. “I don’t think other teams quite have it the way we did,” she said. “If you play for Green Bay, you are a member of a really close group. We try to plan once-a-month dinners for a bunch of us to go out and stay in touch. As an alumni group, we are a lot closer than what I’ve witnessed at other college programs. That makes us special in a way.”
It’s been this way for all 45 seasons, as some of the first-ever players in the program still show up for the annual alumni day. All-time assists leader and Phoenix Hall of Famer Pam Roecker (’83) says founding coach Carol Hammerle had a lot to do with setting the stage and continuing the relationships with players years after their eligibility was up.
“Carol’s leadership, combined with the competitive spirit the talented players exhibited were a great recipe for the beginning of this legacy,” she began. “The winning tradition was a topic we took great pride in and still do.”
Now dean of athletics at Regis College in Weston, Mass. and a television women’s basketball color analyst, Roecker has had past coaching stints at Green Bay, University of Massachusetts, Seton Hall University, Wagner College and Loyola University Chicago.
“The confidence and pride each woman that has worn a Phoenix uniform gained through their time over these last decades cannot be underestimated,” she said. “The expectation for excellence and for preparing to win the right way, every day have stayed with all of the former players.
Now in her 11th season as an assistant for the Phoenix, alumna Amanda (Leonhard) Perry ’03 (Business Administration) says the legacy of the Phoenix family is generational.
“A lot of programs talk about family but I think from beginning to end when you’re in our program it is family,” she said. “Whether you’re a local kid from the Green Bay area or you’re from outside four, five, six hours away. The team becomes your family but also this community becomes your family. The community embraces us so much and our season ticket holders love us so much that they end up as families away from home. When everyone leaves this program, they know it and can feel it.”
Former Phoenix women’s basketball players who continue the legacy as coaches (high school/college)*
|Vicki Anklam-Adams||Former Assistant||Wausau Newman HS|
|Julie Glime Aubry||Former Assistant||Lena HS|
|Julie Steeno Bailey||Former Assistant||Florida International|
|Erin Templin Barkley||Head Coach||Green Bay Southwest HS|
|Sue Klaubauf-Bodilly||Former Assistant||Green Bay|
|Kati Harty Coleman||Head Coach||Bay Port HS|
|Mary Conard||Former Assistant||Preble HS|
|Lydia Bauer||Assistant Coach||Wisconsin Lutheran University|
|Kathi Bennett||Assistant Coach||Madison Edgewood College|
|Rhonda Rice Dart||Former Assistant||Green Bay and Northern Ill.|
|Sarah Eichler||Assistant Coach||UW-Parkside|
|Lori Hansen Frerk||Former Head Coach||Green Bay East HS|
|Chandra Johnson Francies||Former Assistant Coach||Pulaski, Green Bay Southwest HS|
|Julie Hahm||Former Head Coach||Greendale HS|
|Melanie Tilque Hendricks||Assistant||Bay Port HS|
|Tiffany Moore Huck||Former Head Coach||Appleton West HS|
|Hannah Quilling Iverson||Head Coach||UW-Stout|
|Chari Nordgaard Knueppel||Former Assistant Coach||Green Bay|
|Carrie Massey||Assistant Coach||Green Bay|
|Sarah Meyer||Assistant Coach||Lena HS|
|Amanda Leonhard Perry||Assistant Coach||Green Bay|
|Celeste Hoewisch Ratka||Head Coach||Hortonville HS|
|Pam Roecker||Former Head and Asst. Coach||UMass, Seton Hall, Wagner College, Loyola-Chicago and Green Bay|
|Sara Boyer Rohde||Head Coach||Green Bay Notre Dame HS|
|Abby Scharlow||Former Assistant||Florida Gulf Coast|
|Stephanie Sension||Assistant||Atkin (Minnesota)|
|Mary Kulenkamp-Simonsen||Former Assistant||Green Bay|
|Nicole Soulis||Assistant||Ashwaubenon HS|
|Sue Geiser Steeno||Former Assistant||Green Bay|
|Nancy Cieclewicz-Strong||Former Assistant||Green Bay Preble HS|
|Dawn LeClaire Taddy||Former Assistant||Two Rivers High School|
|Sam Terry||Assistant||De Pere HS|
|Lavesa Glover Verhagen||Former Head Coach, Assistant||Orono HS/Green Bay Southwest HS|
*UW-Green Bay acknowledges this is not a complete list. Did you play for the Phoenix and coach in the high school or college ranks? E-mail editor Sue Bodilly, email@example.com to be added to the list.
Photo by Matt Ludtke
This story by freelance writer Jay Lillge originally appear in the Fall/Winter issue of Inside Magazine.
Updated March 12, 2019 by Sue Bodilly