Big things are happening in women’s sports at Oregon, thanks to the new Women In Flight program.
Last year the second-ranked Oregon softball team played in the College World Series before being eliminated by Alabama in the national semifinals. This season, the women’s basketball team is undefeated in preseason play, including a road victory over No. 22 University of North Carolina. The volleyball team is returning to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth consecutive season.
Lisa Peterson, Senior Associate Athletic Director for the women’s programs at UO, explained, “This amazing program came to life when one of our donors wanted to help our women’s teams get to the next level. We are in a period of unprecedented success and want to continue to improve on this success. This program works to raise awareness and financial support for all of our female teams as well as help them achieve success in the classroom, competition and life.”
In 2014, UO conceived the Women In Flight program as a way to fundraise for its women’s athletic programs and teams. The Ducks hired women’s basketball coach Kelly Graves from Gonzaga last year. The team’s goal is to make a return to the NCAA Tournament as it did under Duck coaches Bev Smith and Jody Runge.
Women In Flight is a way to allow donors to contribute directly to the Ducks’ 11 women’s athletic programs. A coup for the new program was a $10 million donation for a new $16.5 million softball facility at UO, the Jane Sanders Stadium. A former UO football player donated to the program as a way to commemorate his wife, a cheerleader he met in college. The new baseball facility will replace the aging softball stadium next to Mac Court on campus.
The Jane Sanders Stadium will have 1,500 permanent seats behind home plate, which was one of softball coach Mike White‘s requests. The new stadium should be ready for Oregon’s Pac-12 opener in March and a picture of the progress thus far is at the top. The goal of the UO women’s softball team is to win a national championship. Under White’s guidance, the softball team won its third straight Pac-12 championship, and made its sixth straight NCAA Tournament appearance. This year White signed the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation.
As with the UO men’s athletic programs, women’s track and basketball stars often receive scholarships so the University can attract quality players. Players such as women’s basketball star Jillian Alleyne, who this season set the rebounding record for the Ducks. She consistently has double-double games in points and rebounds. This year Alleyne surpassed Smith’s record of 1,362 rebounds from 1982.
The idea for the Women In Flight program started with a conversation between UO donor Dave Petrone and Duck Athletic Fund staff at the 2013 Fiesta Bowl. Oregon then researched similar programs at USC and Arizona State. The Women In Flight program, according to a video often played at UO women’s basketball games at Matthew Knight Arena, encourages female athletes to become leaders later in life, as well. Petrone and his wife Nancy have already donated to the new Women In Flight program.
This year the UO volleyball team is returning to the NCAA Tournament after another successful season. The Women In Flight program helps fund the team’s trips and recruiting. Fans of all ages are inspired by the successes of the various women’s athletic programs.
For more information about the Women In Flight program or to purchase tickets for the UO women’s athletic programs, visit www.GoDucks.com.
Top Photo From Video, Courtesy of GoDucks.com