Women’s Basketball at ODU

Women's Basketball Team, 1934
Women’s Basketball Team, 1934

Women’s Basketball at Old Dominion University (ODU) has been a part of the institution since 1931, when it was known as the Norfolk Division of the College of William & Mary. The nickname for the women’s basketball team is the Lady Monarchs. Home basketball games take place at Chartway Arena at the Ted Constant Convocation Center.


Women's Basketball Team after Game with Fans, circa 1977-1979
Women’s Basketball Team after Game with Fans, circa 1977-1979

When women’s basketball was introduced to the Norfolk Division shortly after the division opened, it was an intramural sport. The firsts game was played in March 1931 against the College of William & Mary freshman team. Most of the opponents the team faced were freshmen teams at other colleges and universities. The team’s nickname was the Bravettes, honoring their affiliation with William & Mary, whose athletic teams were known as the Indians during this time. In addition to Bravettes, there were occasions where they were known as the “Squaws.” The first women’s physical education instructor, Mary D. Parker, organized the first team and the first game was played against the William & Mary freshmen team. In the 1940s, the women’s athletic teams continued to play, even with the outbreak of World War II, and the importance of women workers in the war effort was emphasized. In the 1950s, the women’s basketball team began to compete on the intercollegiate level under coach Emily Pittman. Donna Doyle Smith, one of the first star athletes at ODU, excelled at basketball, was named the best female athlete in 1955, and helped the 1956 women’s basketball team to an undefeated 5-0 record. The first athletic scholarship for women at ODU, established in 1975, was named after Doyle for all her achievements. Shortly after Doyle’s exceptional career, women’s basketball lost the ability to compete on the intercollegiate level, and did not do so again until the 1967-1968 season.

In 1969, when Old Dominion obtained university status, Mary Jackson was named head coach and took the team, then known as the Princesses, to the state tournament championship. The strength of the team grew in the 1970s, especially with the hiring of Marianne Stanley as head coach in 1977 and the recruitment of All-Americans Nancy Lieberman, Anne Donovan, and Inge Nissen. The Lady Monarch, as they were known the 1970s, took home three national championships, the 1979 and 1980 Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) championship, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament championship in 1985. The Lady Monarchs winning tradition continued in 1987 with the hiring of Wendy Larry, a former ODU standout, as head coach. Over her 24 seasons as coach, the Lady Monarchs won 17 straight Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) titles, reached 20 NCAA tournament appearances, including an appearance in the tournament title game in 1997. Named National Coach of the Year in 1997 and the recipient of eight CAA Coach of the Year awards, Larry amassed a 559-203 record at ODU. After Larry’s retirement in 2011, Karen Barefoot of Elon University became the new women’s basketball head coach. In 2012, it was announced that the Monarchs would be joining Conference USA effective July 1, 2013. With the resignation of Barefoot in 2017 to become the head coach of UNC Wilmington, ODU hired former college and professional basketball player Nikki McCray-Penson, an assistant coach at the University of South Carolina, as the new head coach. In 2020, after leading the Lady Monarchs to a 24-6 season, McCray-Penson resigned to become the head coach of nationally-ranked University of Mississippi. DeLisha Milton-Jones, assistant coach at Pepperdine University, was named the new head coach of the Lady Monarchs on April 11, 2020.

In October 2021, it was announced that ODU would rejoin the Sun Belt Conference no later than 2023.

Head Coaches

Mary D. Parker

Catherine Cubberly (1935-1936)

Emily Pittman (1950-1969)

Mary Jackson (1969-1973)

Debbie Wilson (1973-1974)

Pam Parsons (1974-1977)

Marianne Stanley (1977-1987)

Wendy Larry (1987-2011)

Karen Barefoot (2011-2017)

Nikki McCray-Penson (2017-2020)

DeLisha Milton-Jones (2020-present)


  1. Old Dominion University Intercollegiate Athletics Records, Special Collections and University Archives, Perry Library, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia, 23529.
  2. Old Dominion University Photographic and Multimedia Collection, Special Collections and University Archives, Perry Library, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia, 23529.
  3. ODU Photographic Collection, Old Dominion University Libraries Digital Collections, Old Dominion University Libraries.
  4. Old Dominion University Athletics Women’s Basketball Website.


  1. Bookman, Steven and Jessica Ritchie. Old Dominion University: A Campus History Series.  Arcadia Publishing. Charleston, South Carolina, 2017.
  2. Sweeney, Dr. James R., Old Dominion University: A Half-Century of Service, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Va., 1980.
  3. Wikipedia contributors. “Old Dominion Lady Monarchs Basketball” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 21 Aprl 2020. Accessed 21 Aprli 2020 at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Dominion_Lady_Monarchs_basketball.