Women’s basketball celebrates 40th anniversary, 800th win

The Mount Mercy women’s basketball program celebrated its 40th anniversary during Homecoming Weekend in October, then reached another milestone a month later, becoming only the fifth program in the history of the NAIA to reach 800 wins.

The Mustangs did it in style, too, knocking off the number one team in the country, Northwestern, by a score of 64–56 on Nov. 12 at Hennessey Recreation Center. With the victory over the two-time defending national champion Red Raiders, Mount Mercy joined Union (Tenn.) (1,106), Wayland Baptist (Texas) (953), conference rival St. Ambrose (840) and Southern Nazarene (Okla.) (814) as the only NAIA programs with 800 or more victories.

The Mount Mercy women’s basketball program was started in 1971 by Dr. Leonard Ranson. After going 3–1 during their inaugural season, the Mustangs posted the first of 21 20-win seasons in 1974–75. Five state championships followed in 1977, 1979, 1980, 1981 and 1982. Mount Mercy reached the AIAW Final Four in 1980, 1981 and 1982, finishing runner-up in 1981 and 1982.

After six 20-win seasons in the 1980s, the Mustangs began a new decade by advancing to five consecutive NAIA Division II national tournaments and reaching the Final Four in 1994 and 1995. During the 1999–2000 campaign, Mount Mercy reached the 600-victory plateau. The Mustangs got to 700 wins in 2005–06, and after a pair of 20-win seasons and a 19-win campaign in the last three years, Mount Mercy entered the 2011–12 season just three wins shy of 800.

Dr. Leonard Ranson (middle row, second from the right) is surrounded by women’s basketball alumni, assistant coaches, Sisters of Mercy and his daughters during the banquet celebration.