By Erin Brown, Sports Editor
This past weekend the University of Southern Maine celebrated fifty years of women’s athletics at our university. Honored with games from both women’s basketball and ice hockey, the Huskies reveled in a half-century worth of history.
Back when the university was still named Gorham State College and the mascot was the Hilltopper rather than the Husky, women’s collegiate sports got their start. The establishment of women’s sports can be credited to several people, but one woman in particular went above and beyond when it came to bringing women’s athletics to the University of Southern Maine: Paula Hodgdon.
In 1967, women’s sports were officially offered at Gorham State College. The first three offered were field hockey, basketball and volleyball. Hodgdon started off coaching field hockey and basketball in the first collegiate season. She would spend 1968 and 1970 coaching basketball, coaching women’s skiing from 1969–70, and women’s lacrosse from 1972–79.
Hodgdon found success coaching a field hockey team at Gorham State College. Hodgdon stayed as head coach of the Huskies’ field hockey team for 31 seasons. Twenty years after she created the program, she was able to take her team to the NCAA Final Four tournament in 1987. The team was led by freshman Bonny Brown Denico, who currently coaches the USM women’s field hockey team.
In 1998, just a year after her retirement as the field hockey coach, the field her team and other various USM athletic teams played on, was renamed in her honor.
In January 2015, Hodgdon was inducted into the National Field Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame. After 31 seasons, Hodgdon had a record of 213-173-57 and had made appearances in seven ECAC tournaments, four NCAA tournaments, and the NCAA Final Four appearance.
Since 1993, the athletic department has been awarding female student athletes with the Paula D. Hodgdon Leadership Award. The award is for athletes who have played at least three years on a collegiate athletic team and who have shown the same dedication and commitment as Hodgdon.
After coaching through three decades, three different names of the University, and hundreds of players it is safe to say that what Hodgdon did for women’s athletics is not something most can say they have done. With eleven intercollegiate women’s teams at the university now, female student athletes all have Paula Hodgdon to thank for bringing attention to the necessity of female athletics on campus.