March 20, 2001
Campus Honors NCAA Division III Basketball Champions
The campus community gathered around the balloon-festooned steps of McMahon Hall Tuesday to welcome home and celebrate the Cardinals Basketball team, winner of this year's NCAA Division III championship.
(From Left) CUA Provost John Convey, Robert Talbot, Rashaun Martin, Father Robert Friday and Father David M. O'Connell join Coach Michael Lonergan (holding trophy) and his team of champions at their celebration ceremony.
"We're number one!" exulted the Rev. Robert Friday, vice president for student life, who served as master of ceremonies for the noontime celebration. Several hundred onlookers gathered for the event, which featured remarks by speakers and cheerleaders leading the crowd in celebratory chants. The finale was a montage of recordings of excited announcer play-by-play commentary from the team's winning games. Reporters and photographers from several major media outlets around Washington, D.C., showed up to cover the celebration, which marked a historic accomplishment in CUA sports. The team's March 17 win secured CUA's first NCAA championship in the university athletic program's 90-year history.
"Every once in a while, in the history of an institution, things happen to bring us all closer together," said the Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M., President. "Last Saturday, St. Patrick's Day, was one of those joyful moments. Not only did something happen in the history of this institution. This institution made history. Coach (Mike) Lonergan and members of the CUA men's Basketball team…you are national champions, the first athletic team in our history to achieve such distinction and The Catholic University of America is so proud of you!"
The program was punctuated with frequent whoops and shouts of encouragement from the crowd, which included students, staff, faculty, administrators, alumni and other fans.
"That's what dreams are made of!" shouted one audience member.
As Father Friday opened the program, he asked the team members to gather around the podium. Attired in khaki pants, button down shirts and ties, the players stood by as speaker after speaker thanked them and noted what their accomplishment means to the university.
"This national championship has been a long time in coming, Lord," said the Rev. Robert Schlageter, O.F.M., Conv., campus chaplain, as he offered the invocation. "The wait makes us appreciate it even more. We are grateful especially because from this experience we have learned that all things are possible when we use and develop the talents you have given us."
Undergraduate Student Government President Rashaun Martin offered thanks on behalf of the student body to the team, and wished them luck in holding on to their title next year.
Athletic Director Robert Talbot attributed the team's success to its outstanding teamwork, and said he was happy to see such a win after 40 years of studying, coaching and administering the sports program at CUA.
"To Coach Lonergan, all the assistant coaches and the players, I want to say thanks for the effort, and thanks for a season we'll never forget," Mr. Talbot said.
The Cardinal cheerleaders led the crowd in a celebratory chant at Tuesday's celebration
When Coach Lonergan took the microphone, the applause rang out across the campus. He reminisced about his time at CUA as a student, and expressed gratitude to those who hired him as a young 26-year-old coach nearly a decade ago. He thanked all the supporters who drove to Salem to see the game, and said he hoped the win would earn Catholic University some well-deserved time in the national spotlight.
"This is a special place, and I don't think enough people know about that," Coach Lonergan said. "We're going to enjoy this…We have a great team, and we have great kids. I always say our student athletes are representative of the university…
"This national championship wasn't just for us, but for everyone who has played here."
As for the players, they seemed happy and a bit stunned by all the attention.
"I don't know how we won," said Pat Maloney, a senior guard who was voted the NCAA Division III Most Valuable Player. "We didn't always shoot the ball well, we didn't always rebound well. But we won. I don't know how we did it.
"But one thing I do know," he said. "We have heart."
To read about the underdog Cardinals' "almost unbelievable run to the championship," see http://washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A23517-2001Mar18.html and http://washtimes.com/sports/default-2001319225135.htm
Revised: March 20, 2001
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