After 33 seasons of hosting Virginia women's basketball, University Hall saw its final games during the 2005-2006 season. Through the years, the graceful structure was the stage for some of the biggest wins and most magical moments in UVa basketball history.
One of the most memorable games came in 1986 when 11,174 fans packed University Hall to watch the Lady Cavaliers take on the North Carolina Tar Heels. This monumental attendance broke the previous ACC record, and stands as the largest Virginia basketball crowd in U-Hall. Enthusiasm and attendance continued during the 1991-92 season, as the Virginia-NC State women's game became the first in program history to be sold out prior to the day of the contest.
In more than three decades of intercollegiate basketball, University Hall came to life every time the Cavaliers took the court. UVa's all-time record at University Hall speaks for itself. The women's basketball program finished with a 373-81 home record for a .822 winning percentage during its time at U-Hall (149-48, .756 ACC). The women's team also posted five perfect seasons there in 1987 (14-0), 1988 (14-0), 1993 (15-0), 1994 (16-0) and 1995 (14-0).
In 1994, the Cavalier women's basketball team established a new school record for most consecutive home wins with a 83-74 win over North Carolina and continued to build on that record, eventually amassing 61 consecutive home wins-the fourth longest home court win streak in the history of collegiate women's basketball. Over the course of the 1990's, the team registered a 137-15 (.868) record at University Hall.
During the "Last Ball in U-Hall," the farewell season in University Hall, the Virginia women hosted Clemson in the regular-season finale. Emerging with a 83-64 victory, the Cavaliers, alumnae and 6,516 fans celebrated what they thought would be their last game in the building. However, UVa would play two more contests, hosting St. Joseph's and Miami in the Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT), winnin its final contest at University Hall as it topped Miami 83-72 on March 22, 2006. The 'Hoos finished their final season 11-5 at home in U-Hall.
Many of the most recognizable names in Virginia women's basketball history called University Hall home during their collegiate careers. Several of those standout women returned to celebrate the "Last Ball in U-Hall," and looked back fondly.
"Who will ever forget Joe Gieck's training room, getting the daily roll from BG, seeing Doyle Smith courtside on game day; the occasional practice at the Cage- and, of course, Coach Ryan tirelessly putting us through our paces. Thank you, U-Hall- a generation of Cavalier women called you 'home,' and under your roof we came of age," said Val Ackerman (Political & Social Thought '81, President, USA Basketball.)
"If I had to pick one memory that stands out more than any other, it would be beating No. 3 Old Dominion my first year when our team was unranked. Old Dominion had 6'7" Ann Donovan, who was one of the most dominant players in the country at the time, and was a favorite to win the national championship. After the game, I remember Debbie Ryan asking me why I wasn't celebrating with my teammates. I responded at that time that I was excited about the win, but that I was trying to savor the moment. Thankfully, that win turned out to be the first of many major milestones for UVa women's basketball at University Hall during my career," said Cathy Grimes-Miller (English & Spanish '85, Law '88, Attorney, U.S. Dept. of Education.)
"Having played in U-Hall for four years, I've been a part of the growth of women's basketball at UVa. The atmosphere the fans provided will always be embedded in my heart. I'm truly sorry to see U-Hall go, but my memories of the people and the winning that took place will be lasting," said Dawn Staley (Rhetoric & Communication Studies, '92 Head coach, South Carolina.)
"I've had so many special moments in University Hall. Those moments not only include basketball games but practices as well. One of the best moments that sticks out in my mind is the 1992 Eastern Regional in which we won and advanced to our third consecutive Final Four. University Hall will forever be a special place to me. I feel blessed and extremely fortunate to have had the honor to play and coach in University Hall," said Audra Smith (Sociology '92, UVa assistant coach 1995-2004, Head coach, Alabama-Birmingham.)
"U-Hall was my 'home away from home' during school and even when I return to the grounds today. The athletic family located there is connected by seasons of sweat and tears and faithful support by staff and volunteers. I will never forget my orange slices, 'roll' (i.e. a bundle of practice shorts and shirt) and the time spent in Joe Gieck's training room. The new arena promises much comfort and technological gadgetry. I only hope that the warm spirit of tradition and loyalty can be packaged as well," said Debby Stroman (History & Social Studies Education '82, Owner, Stroman Athletic & Asset Management.)
The leadership of these individuals, on and off the court, has paved the way for the current Cavalier women's basketball program to embrace greatness and make a new home in John Paul Jones Arena.
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A 1985 graduate of UVA, White worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch until July 2009. He was honored six times as the state's Sportswriter of the Year.
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