Written by women’s basketball freshman forward, Jaide Hinds-Clarke. She approached Spider Voices and took it upon herself to interview her teammates, gathering all of the kind thoughts and memories about two beloved members of the women’s basketball family that were taken from us, far too soon.
Annually, The University of Richmond Department of Athletics inducts new members into the University Athletics Hall of Fame. This year was very humbling, as three individuals were inducted and a Team of Distinction named. Among the inductees were, Tom Clarke (1991-95) member of the men’s tennis team, Mike Winiecki (1985-89), who served as a positive force on the men’s basketball team, and a George Washington transfer who played for two years on the Richmond women’s basketball team, Ginny Doyle (1990-92). The Team of Distinction was the 2010-11 swimming and diving team, for whom Natalie Lewis served as a team captain and later went on to become the director of basketball operations for the women’s basketball team.
Coach Doyle and Natalie tragically passed away in May 2014, as a result of a hot air balloon accident – making this year’s induction very special for the women’s basketball team, as Coach Doyle and Natalie had lasting impacts on the lives of many student-athletes within the program. Not only was Ginny Doyle a student-athlete at our university, she also served as a beloved Associate Head Coach on the women’s basketball staff for 15 years.
As a captain of the 2010-11 swimming and diving team, Natalie and her teammates sparked what are now six consecutive Atlantic 10 Championship titles. Although most of the time true appreciation and gratitude can be hard to express through words, many of my teammates found it effortless to express the impact both Coach Doyle and Natalie had on them, and our program.
Lauren Tolson (#23) –
“Coach Doyle recruited me and coached me for one year. She and I had a great relationship. She was on me and pushed me to be a tough player. I loved her spirit and passion for the game. I strive to make a mark on the program like she did but it is very unreachable. Her presence, her Richmond spirit and belief in me gives me continued motivation to do so.”
“Natalie is the kindest person you would meet. She was never mad but even if she was she never showed it. She was the type of person to brighten up your day. She looked out for other people before herself – ALWAYS.
Janelle Hubbard (#4) –
“I was very close with Coach Doyle, particularly because she had been recruiting me since I was a freshman in high school. We used to have 2-3 hour long talks at least twice a week. When I got to Richmond I was always in her office. She was the glue that held everything together for me. She believed in me, and my ability as a basketball player. Everything I have accomplished thus far in my career, she believed in and told me I would do even more!”
“Natalie was literally my favorite person to see every day. Whenever you saw her she had a big, bright, beautiful smile on her face. I had never seen her in a bad mood or upset except for one time my freshman year when our pre-practice meals got messed up. She cried because not everybody got food and she felt responsible for it. But there was Coach Doyle right there to console her and make her feel better.”
“There was never a dull moment when either of these two amazing women are around and their induction into the Hall of Fame is very much deserved. I wish they could be here to celebrate this with us but I know they’re looking down on us and wishing nothing but the best for us. They are truly missed more than ever.”
Dazia Hall (#10) –
“When I remember Coach Doyle, I remember greatness. She embodied what greatness is and she loved Richmond. She sold me on Richmond because I could tell that she really truly loved it here and she made me believe that I could love it as well.”
“Natalie was literally the nicest person I have ever met and will probably ever meet. I miss seeing her smile everyday”
Micaela Parson (#11) –
“In my senior year of high school, I would talk to Ginny 3-4 times a week on the phone for hours. We would talk about movies, TV, and whatever else was going on in the world. We shared the same favorite movie, ‘Bridesmaids’, always found some way to recite quotes through normal conversations and just laughed. I remember the first time I went on an unofficial visit; it was deep into winter, about 23 degrees, the wind breeze made it feel about 10 degrees, and yet, Ginny decided it was a great day to walk around campus! While my dad and I bundled up in winter coats, long pants, thick socks and scarves, Ginny had on basketball shorts and a long sleeve t-shirt and said, “This weather is nothing.”
Alicia Hudalla (#14) –
“I always wanted to play college basketball and Richmond had always been recruiting me. I learned Richmond was interested in the eighth grade when I started receiving handwritten letters from Coach Doyle. She made almost every single one of my AAU games when she was in the area and most of my high school games. She was amazingly kind, genuine, and every second of every day was dedicated to basketball and recruiting. She would call me for hours at a time and we would talk about everything. Life, basketball, anything and everything she could think of. No one could replace her, no one was like her, and no one could even come close to matching her spirit or love for the game and her girls.”
“Natalie was always around when I would come visit Richmond. Always smiling, always happy, the team raved about her. She was everything someone should strive to be – caring, compassionate, funny and loving.”
“The induction this weekend brought back a lot of memories; painful and beautiful memories. They are both right where they belong in the hall of fame. I couldn’t think of two more deserving people and I am more than blessed to have been a part of their lives while I could be.”
Kylie Murphree (#0) –
“The induction brought back both happy and sad memories. It was inspiring, hearing all of the great things both Natalie and Coach Doyle did and how influential both of them were. They are the most deserving people that I can think of and it was truly an honor to know them both.”
Karleigh Wike (#15) –
“I came to Richmond one month after the accident and my life was forever changed. I knew coach Doyle for three years, and I knew she was a Richmond legend. My freshman year we would travel to games and wherever we went, someone would bring it up. Although we don’t bring it up as much now, it was nice to come together this weekend and honor Ginny and Natalie in a happy setting for the many accomplishments they had and the lives they touched. I wish that they could have been there, but it was nice that they received the love and attention that they deserve, even years after their lives were taken too soon.”
Taisha Murphy (#13) –
“I met Coach Doyle for the first time when I came on an unofficial visit. She was very upfront with me about how hard college basketball was and said she wasn’t going to sugarcoat it for me. She let me know that to make it in the college world, only the strong survived, and here I am, thanks to her, still surviving.”
Ragan Wiseman (#5) –
“I remember Natalie from my first visit in the fall of my sophomore year. I remember her playing with my sister, Leigh Lou, keeping her company while we watched practice.”
“Coach Doyle was the one who gave me a tour of campus when I first visited and was my first recruiting coach. I was very new to the process and I had never heard of Richmond before, but after I visited it was my number one. We stayed in contact every once in awhile and she came to my Regional Semi-Final basketball game in Floyd that same year. I remember her and her brother sitting there watching my game, and being nervous that my number one school was watching me. I will never forget the impact Coach Doyle had on me.”
Unfortunately, my class, the freshmen did not get to build the same relationship that several of our upperclassmen experienced with Coach Doyle and Natalie Lewis. There were several emotions expressed through their tears at the 2017 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. At the ceremony, I could not help but think about my encounter with Coach Doyle and Natalie, and how much it meant to me to have been able to meet the individuals that our team and University continue to rave about. Being that fellow freshman, Ragan Wiseman, and I are the only of the freshmen class and the last individuals on the current roster that will be able to say that we met such role models, I began to think about how important it is for Coach Doyle and Natalie’s stories to never fade.
Three weeks prior to the accident, I met and spoke with both Coach Doyle and Natalie on an unofficial visit my sophomore year. Natalie answered several phone calls from my Mom the week leading up to our visit, and when we got to the basketball office made me feel comfortable right away – smiling, complimenting my hairstyle and outfit. Coach Doyle was giving another athlete a tour while Coach Cori Chambers was giving me mine, yet at the end of her tour she made a point to speak to me. She shared with me wise words about the recruiting process and making a decision. Standing in the doorway of her office, she said, “You will know where you belong when you step on a campus that feels like home.” Little did she know, Richmond felt like home and it was exactly where I wanted to be. I found out about their untimely passing on the news, and was crushed, as I had just met them.
It was amazing to see the level of support the community had for their families and friends during that time. I visited campus on November 14, 2014 to watch the women’s basketball team compete in their season opener against Providence. Upon walking in, there were shirts on sale, the front of which displayed a memorial ribbon with initials honoring Coach Doyle and Natalie. During halftime, their families were honored and received a standing ovation at center court. Every sport rallied in support – every jersey, every helmet had the memorial ribbon present – a true testament of the Richmond community.
For many of my teammates, the role Coach Doyle played in their recruiting process, their lives, is something that cannot be replaced and will never be forgotten. In athletics, we constantly talk about pride and school spirit. It is evident by the words of many that both Coach Doyle and Natalie loved anything red and blue, anything Spider, and were the backbones of our organization.
The memorial ribbon is no longer present on our basketball jerseys but the relationships and memories shared will never escape the minds and hearts of the people they encountered. Although no future student-athlete will have the honor of being recruited by Coach Doyle or receiving a smile from Natalie, their initials will always the present on our locker room whiteboard, surrounded by a heart – and will always be present in our hearts. They are a true testament of what it means to be a Spider, what it means to be part of the women’s basketball program.
This goes for everyone – you never know how a chance meeting, short or long, with someone will impact your life. Cherish the people around you, for you never know what they can do for your life, your world, and yoUR purpose.