Alumni Gather to Celebrate 1994 WCWS Team

Jen Banas and Adrienne Zeller at Flames Field.
Jen Banas and Adrienne Zeller at Flames Field.

April 9, 2014

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CHICAGO – Nostalgia was in the air this past Saturday (April 5) as the 1994 Women's College World Series team, fellow alumni and former head coach Mike McGovern came together to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Flames' lone trip to the WCWS. UIC went 56-19-1 that season with a perfect 17-0 record in Mid-Con play and defeated Indiana to advance to the WCWS.

"It is very special to come together when you haven't seen some of these people in 20 years," said McGovern. "When you coach, you are so engrossed in the next contest that you really don't get much time to reflect. After looking back at how the team connected and achieved success, I finally realized how tough it was for them to take those steps and get to the World Series."

The alumni began the day at Flames Field, where they were recognized prior to UIC’s doubleheader with Wright State, who is coach by ’94 team member Lynn Curylo. Former pitcher Jen Banas, who went 15-5 during her senior ’94 season, threw out the ceremonial first pitch to former catcher Adrienne Zeller.

After two wins for the Flames against the Raiders, an alumni celebration was held that evening at the Marriott Medical District Hotel. It was a night filled with memories of UIC's dominant years in the 1990s that brought on laughs, as well as a few tears, to those who reunited with their "family."

"The fact that you can walk into a room, 20 years later, and it doesn't seem like a day has passed means that those are good friendships, and that’s family," said Julie Sewell, former second baseman.

Former standouts Michelle MacCartney Peterson, Tricia Charbonneau, Kindra Phelps Messel and Banas spoke to their fellow teammates, family and friends in attendance and shared stories about their time at UIC. McGovern closed out the evening by reflecting on his experience as coach of the 1994 team.

McGovern brought the UIC softball program into national contention when he began his first season in 1990. McGovern, a UIC Athletics Hall of Fame inductee, went on to coach the Flames for 12 seasons and guided them through the most successful decade in program history.

"We had a really great experience together and it was important for us to be here to thank Coach McGovern," said Sarah O'Malley, who played for McGovern and ultimately succeeded him at UIC.

Competing in the Women’s College World Series is a feat student-athletes strive to achieve, but former outfielder Andrea DiGrazia noted how the accomplishment and the memories along the way stay with you for a lifetime.

"It meant a lot then, but it means so much more now," said DiGrazia. "The biggest part was being on a team that was a family, just playing together, playing hard and having a coach who led from the heart and was very pragmatic about everything."

“My heartfelt thanks goes out to all of our alumni, our administration and staff that helped put on this wonderful event, as well as my staff and our team for all that they do for UIC Softball," said UIC head coach Michelle Venturella. “It was amazing to have so many alumni celebrate Alumni Day. The banquet was the highlight for many of us, with members of the 1994 team sharing stories and pictures from that time and Coach McGovern taking us through the journey of the 1994 season. Our players gained a lot of perspective and wisdom from the most successful team to have ever put on the UIC uniform."