Mustangs honored during annual awards banquet
SMU finishes season 21-10; Win 20 for ninth time
Junior became third player in program history named Conference Player of the Year
Two teams meet for first time Thursday at 6 p.m. CT
SMU plays winner between No. 8 UCF and No. 9 Houston at 11 a.m.
When Rhonda Rompola first took over the SMU women's basketball team as head coach in 1991, she claimed that she was establishing a winning tradition, guiding SMU to a 17-12 record in her debut season. The time was taken to build tradition and Rompola has forged ahead the past 20 seasons with record winning percentages and the first postseason tournament appearances in school history. In her 22 years as head coach, Rompola has tallied a 401-263 mark, earning her 400th career victory Feb. 21, 2013 in a win over Tulsa.
The veteran coach led a young 2012-13 squad, which consisted of just one senior, to the C-USA Regular-Season Championship and the program's ninth 20-win season, all during her tenure. The Mustangs also advanced to the WNIT, the 12th postseason appearance since Rompola took over the reins. Under her leadership, Keena Mays was named C-USA Player of the Year, and Alisha Filmore and Akil Simpson joined Mays on the All-C-USA team. SMU finished the season 21-10, 12-4 C-USA, and won 10 straight, the second longest win streak in program history.
Rompola guided a young 2011-12 team, which was led by sophomore Akil Simpson, an All-C-USA selection, to a 14-17 record and a win over Marshall in the Conference USA tournament before falling to host Memphis. She recorded her 369th career win with a 47-38 win over TCU on Nov. 17, 2011. The win gave her more than any other SMU head coach all-time in any sport.
In 2010-11, a team comprised of sophomores and junior at the core finished 14-16. Samatha Mahnesmith was named MVP, averaging 10.2 points per game on 34.6-percent shooting from three-point range. Christine Elliott led SMU in scoring, 10.5 ppg, and rebounding, 7.3 rpg.
The 2009-10 team, led by senior guards Brittany Gilliam and Jillian Samuels, earned a WNIT appearance and finished the year with a 20-11 record. The Mustangs reached 20 wins for the third consecutive season, which totals a program-best three-year span of 64 wins between the 2007-08 and 2009-10 seasons. The Mustangs were particularly strong at home during the season, compiling a 13-3 record at Moody Coliseum.
The 2008-09 season saw the Mustangs reach the postseason for a second straight year. SMU reached this feat after winning the regular season title which granted them a berth in the WNIT. Rompola's recruiting skills showed through when freshman Christine Elliott put on a record performance, grabbing 21 rebounds in a Feb. 26 game against Tulane.
The 2006-07 season saw Rompola guide SMU to an 18-win season while helping Janielle Dodds (All-C-USA) and Delisha Wills (C-USA All-Freshman) to individual honors. SMU advanced to the quarterfinals of the C-USA Championship and closed out the season by winning five of its last seven games. Rompola also signed one of SMU's best recruiting classes in years, adding state championship game MVPs Haley Day and LaShandra Hill.
During the 2005-06 campaign, the Mustangs claimed third place in their inaugural year in Conference USA, posting a 16-14 record and reached the semifinals of the league tournament, held for the first time at SMU. Then-sophomore post Janielle Dodds continued her strong play, earning first-team All-Conference USA honors, while then-senior forward Sarah Davis closed out her career with more than 1,000 points scored, and became SMU's all-time shot blocker during the course of the season.
In its final year as a member of the Western Athletic Conference (2004-05), the Mustangs posted a 19-11 record and reached postseason play after being invited to the WNIT.
SMU earned 13 home victories -- a program-best record. With a slew of freshmen, the young Mustangs gained valuable experience which will pay off in future years. Dodds earned the WAC's Newcomer of the Year award and was the recipient of Women's Basketball Coaches Association All-America honorable mention honors -- another program first. Dodds was one of only three freshmen in the country to be recognized.
In the 2003-04 season, SMU opened by playing three top-25 teams in its first four games of the season. The Mustangs survived seven straight games on the road heading into conference play and produced their best games at Moody Coliseum, including a hard-fought battle against No. 6 Louisiana Tech. SMU finished the regular season as the fifth seed going into the WAC Tournament, but dropped an overtime decision in the quarterfinals.
The 2002-03 campaign proved to be a season in which the SMU women's basketball team built its future upon. The Mustang squad -- including three seniors, two juniors, three sophomores and two freshmen -- produced a solid foundation for a bright future. SMU posted a 16-15 record, highlighted by a 71-68 upset victory over 15th-ranked Oklahoma in Norman. The Mustangs closed out the season by winning four of their last six games and reached the semifinals of the 2003 WAC Tournament.
With 11 active players to start the 2001-02 season, the Mustangs dropped to nine players after two sustained season-ending injuries. Each of the Mustangs garnered plenty of playing time and experience.
In the 2000-01 season, Rompola guided the Mustangs to a 17-12 overall record with an 11-5 WAC record, finishing third in the league.
During the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 seasons, Rompola guided the Mustangs to back-to-back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time in school history. Named the 1999-2000 Dallas Morning News WAC Coach of the Year, Rompola and her staff saw the Mustangs achieve a first for the program -- the WAC regular season championship with only five returning letterwinners.
After opening the 1999-2000 season with three wins, SMU dropped five straight games, but picked itself up and won the next 12 consecutive games -- a school record. The Mustangs took advantage of their home court, going 12-1 at Moody Coliseum -- another school record -- en route to winning the WAC regular season title. SMU made its third straight NCAA postseason appearance, its sixth in the last seven years. The 12th-seeded Mustangs defeated North Carolina State and became just the eighth No. 12 seed to advance in the NCAA Tournament.
During the 1998-99 season, SMU claimed its first conference championship, defeating No. 4 Colorado State in the WAC Tournament final. The Mustangs won 13 of their final 15 games, including a school-record eight in a row. With its victory over Colorado State, SMU toppled the highest-ranked opponent ever. The Mustangs followed that by knocking off No. 25 Toledo in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. It was the first time SMU had defeated ranked opponents in back-to-back games.
In their first year as a member of the Western Athletic Conference, the Mustangs made their presence known, reaching the semifinals of the 1997 conference tournament held in Las Vegas, Nev.
The 1995-96 campaign featured a strong senior-laden squad, loaded with experience. The Mustangs posted their third straight postseason NCAA appearance and closed out the season with a 19-11 mark. The 1996-97 Mustangs put up an identical win-loss mark but, as a bubble team, were bypassed for NCAA postseason play. During the 1995-96 season, SMU earned a NCAA postseason bid for the third straight year. Seeded 10th, the Mustangs lost to No. 7 seed DePaul, 96-82, in the first round of the Mideast Regional.
Perhaps the most significant sign of a program on the rise is its postseason progress. During the 1994-95 season, the Mustangs picked up their first votes in the final AP poll, collecting seven points. SMU continued that trend, receiving AP votes for 11 weeks. Before Rompola took over the helm, SMU had not beaten a ranked team. That trend has been altered completely, as six ranked teams have fallen to SMU during Rompola's tenure. In each of Rompola's first three years, SMU advanced to the semifinal round of the Southwest Conference Tournament, a feat never accomplished by the Mustangs. The 1994-95 team broke through the SWC barriers of the past and advanced to the championship game.
In 1994-95, SMU earned a No. 10 seeding in the West Region and defeated No. 7 Southern Miss in the first round, 96-95 in overtime, for its first NCAA Tournament win in school history. The Mustangs then fell to second-seeded Stanford on the Cardinal home court, 95-73.
The excitement and enthusiasm surrounding SMU women's basketball has become contagious, as reflected by increased home attendance figures. SMU has established single-game and regular-season attendance records in recent seasons. In 1995-96, the Mustangs averaged 1,428 fans per home game. A crowd of 4,019 witnessed the contest between SMU and Texas Tech.
The 1993-94 team continued to carry the program to new heights. The Mustangs exploded on the scene in 1994-95, smashing a series of records. SMU set marks for victories (21), winning percentage (.677), SWC victories (nine), SWC finish (tied for second), points scored (2,515) and rebounds (1,336). The Mustangs earned an appearance in the 1994 NCAA Tournament, where SMU received a No. 13 seed in the Mideast Region and lost in the first round to fourth-seed Louisiana Tech.
Her initial year as head coach was billed "a season of firsts" because of the numerous records that SMU set with Rompola's fast-paced, high-pressure style of play. But the ink was barely dry in the record books when the 1992-93 Mustangs produced their own parade of "firsts."
The 1992-93 team was the first to play in a national postseason tournament, advancing to the championship game of the Women's National Invitational Tournament.
While Rompola's 1991-92 squad earned a vote in the Associated Press top 25 poll for the first time, the Ponies rang up 34 points in the following year's poll.
Rompola, who graduated from SMU with a business degree in 1983, originally played at Old Dominion. She played on the Monarchs' AIAW national championship teams in 1979 and 1980. In two seasons, Rompola averaged 10.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.5 assists while shooting 51.6 percent from the floor and 83.9 percent from the foul line. She recently was honored with honorable mention honors on the all-time Lady Monarch basketball team.
After transferring to SMU, Rompola led the 1981-82 Mustangs to an 18-15 record, the last winning season by SMU until she became head coach in 1991-92. The 18 wins during that season were also a school record until 1992-93.
Rompola led the Mustangs in points (683), scoring average (21.3 ppg) and rebounds (8.8) in 1981-82. She still holds the school records for season scoring (total and average) as well as free throw percentage (.863). Her record of 278 rebounds in a season was broken by Shasta Smothers-Johnson in 1984-85 (310).
Rompola and her husband, Mike Dement, were married in June 2007. She attended War Memorial High School in Sayreville, N.J., where she was a three-time all-state and all-conference performer, leading her team to a 44-8 record and the 1978 Central Jersey Championship. In May of 2005, Rompola was inducted into her high school's Hall of Fame as a member of the inaugural class.
Coaching Style and Quotes:
Rompola stresses the importance of SMU's academic excellence.
"SMU offers a total package, which is extremely attractive," Rompola says. "It's a renowned university with small classs, providing an education second to none.
"The SMU women's basketball program has risen to national levels in a relatively short amount of time. We intend to maintain our status within the basketball elite for a long time. We pride ourselves in the closeness between the team and the coaches -- it's a true family atmosphere."
SMU is a "home away from home" for the players, which Rompola says is a key factor in the Mustangs' success.
"I believe that one of the reasons why we're successful on the court is because we play as a team, a close-knit family," Rompola says. "You have the benefits of a small university, but SMU also is located in Dallas, one of the largest cities in the country, where the opportunities after graduation are endless."