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BVU women’s basketball: Celebration 50 years in the making

January 27, 2022 3:30pm

Buena Vista University recognizes 50 years of women’s basketball during an Alumni game day celebration as the Beavers host Luther College on Saturday, Jan. 29, in Siebens Fieldhouse. The women’s game is set to tip at 2 p.m. with the men’s contest to follow.

While the origins of BVU women’s basketball go back just beyond 50 years, it was a half-century ago that Coach Harriet Henry directed the team in its debut in league competition, playing in the Io-Kota Conference Henry herself helped establish.

Pam Schreurs, a 1974 BVU graduate who resides in Minneapolis, credits the late Coach Henry for the significant role she played in working to create, then saw through as intercollegiate opportunities for women expanded.

“My senior year at West Lyon High School, we were pretty good, losing only two games, both to Sanborn High School,” says Schreurs. “I came to college as a physical education major and played (basketball) in the intramurals program that first year. The next year, Miss Henry caught me in the hallway of the Siebens Center and said, ‘Would you be interested in playing basketball?’”

Schreurs’ response: “Yes, of course!”

At the time, girls’ basketball in Iowa high schools was played in the six-on-six format with forwards and guards from one team limited to play on one half of the court. Players were limited to two dribbles at a time. A defender could not touch the ball if it were in the hands of an opponent who was outside the lane. Schreurs recalls little in the way of a learning curve as she acclimated herself to five-on-five full-court basketball.

“I had played a lot of basketball in the summer in games where both boys and girls played,” says Schreurs, who was raised at Larchwood. “When boys and girls played together, we used rules for the boys’ game.”

BVU competed against league foes from Northwestern, Briar Cliff, Westmar, Dordt, the University of South Dakota, Sioux Empire, Morningside, and Mt. Marty. The team finished with a 6-2 loop record, good for third place in that inaugural conference campaign.

As for memories, Schreurs laughs and apologizes, wishing she had more in the way of detail.

“I don’t remember much about practice or the games,” she says. “I remember playing once in Sioux City against either Morningside or Briar Cliff. I remember it because my parents came down to watch. I think it was the only game they attended.”

Following her graduation, Schreurs taught physical education in Kansas. She also coached basketball, track, and volleyball, tapping into her BVU volleyball experience as well. She served as an assistant women’s basketball coach at South Dakota State University in the 1980s while earning her master’s degree. From there, she headed to Augsburg College in Minnesota, where she taught and coached women’s basketball and women’s soccer. She retired as a teacher in the Minnesota Public Schools in 2013.

“I visited BVU this summer,” she says. “I bought a brick for the new South Forum Patio and dedicated the brick to my late parents, Joe and Bev Schreurs, who put me through college. Siebens Fieldhouse, Siebens Forum, and the whole campus looked beautiful.”

Following that visit, she was able to reconnect with one of her former BVU teammates. They’ve since shared a few memories with one another about their experiences as student-athletes in a time when official competition for women finally came to the forefront.

Since those early days, BVU has crowned multiple conference champions and has enjoyed trips to the NCAA Elite 8 and Sweet 16. One player, BVU Athletics Hall-of-Famer Jeannie (Demers) Henningsen, a 1987 graduate, brought national acclaim to the Beavers as she topped the career scoring charts in NCAA women’s basketball among all divisions with 3,171 points, a record that stood for 14 years. Coach Janet Berry’s teams won 393 games in her 26-year tenure directing the program. The 2019-20 BVU team led the NCAA (all divisions) with a grade-point average of 3.865.

“Fifty years has gone by quickly,” says Schreurs, one of the BVU women’s basketball “pioneers” who remains active as a 5K runner who has completed seven marathons. “My experience as a student-athlete at Buena Vista kept me interested in remaining active, something I tried to pass on to my students.”

As for basketball a half-century ago, her thoughts turn to the coach who got it started at BVU.

“Had it not been for Miss Henry working to get women’s sports going, I’m not sure we would have had anything,” she says.