No story about the history of women’s sports at Trinity University can start without Julie Jenkins. She recently concluded her 38th season as head volleyball coach for the Tigers with 1,049 career victories, the most for any woman in Division III volleyball history.
Having graduated high school in 1977, however, Jenkins’ wins almost never happened.
“I was right on the bubble of taking advantage of Title IX,” Jenkins says. “A year or two difference in my life probably would have been very different.”
In 1972, only five years before she finished high school, 37 words altered both Jenkins’ journey and women’s athletics altogether:
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
Jenkins has two older sisters, one who didn’t play sports in high school and one who ran cross country. Jenkins believed that was because those were their interests, only later realizing they didn’t have any other options.
“By the time that I got to high school, they had everything for women’s sports. I feel very fortunate that Title IX came into play because I would never have gotten to play sports, so it definitely changed my life,” Jenkins says.
Title IX was passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972 as a way to combat gender discrimination in all aspects of higher education, especially in collegiate athletics. The 2022-23 academic year marked the 50th anniversary of the landmark law. Half a century after the law’s passing, how can one measure the real-world impact Title IX continues to have?
Look no further than the success of Trinity’s women’s sports during this anniversary year. From Volleyball’s national championship appearance to a debut postseason bid for Women’s Golf, women’s sports teams at Trinity dazzled with their dominance.
Golden Year Indeed
Without the developments Jenkins described during her childhood, she would have never gone on to guide Trinity Volleyball to their third straight NCAA quarterfinals and second championship match in November 2022. Their appearance in the title game marked the Tigers’ first since 1999 and earned Jenkins her second American Volleyball Coaches Association Coach of the Year award.
Jenkins is the longest-tenured coach at Trinity, and on the opposite end of the experience spectrum, Trinity’s Shelby DeVore ’18 nailed a hole-in-one in her opening shot as head coach. DeVore directed the women’s golf team to their first NCAA Tournament bid in 2022.
DeVore’s squad swept the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) Player, Freshman, and Coach of the Year awards. By winning Coach of the Year, DeVore became the first woman to win SCAC honors as a coach and as a player. Few know the program better, and she has always felt equality between the men’s and women’s golf teams that work closely together.
“As a player, I never felt like the guys got to do something that we didn’t get to do, or vice versa,” DeVore says. Coach DeVore and Head Men’s Golf Coach Sean Etheredge ensure the men’s and women’s teams have access to the same practice facilities and them as coaches. Another program that tightly knits the men’s and women’s teams is Swimming and Diving. Student-athlete Neely Burns ’26 recently concluded a trip to the NCAA Championships, where she earned First Team All-American status in three races, including a silver medal in the 400-yard individual medley. To her, unity between the teams is a must.
“When I was looking for different colleges to possibly swim at, being at a college where there’s both a women’s and men’s team was super important to me because I really enjoy that dynamic,” Burns says. “I feel like the women’s and men’s teams here at Trinity are very close, like we’re all one big team.”
While they do so much together, the teams compete separately. The women won their 20th consecutive SCAC championship and sent a school-record 10 participants to the NCAA Championships under Head Swimming and Diving Coach Cathleen Pruden.
The success in the pool mirrored other incredible performances by female student-athletes in sports that spotlight individuals.
Seven Tigers won All-Region honors during Track and Field’s indoor season as Joy Areola ’25 mastered the triple jump and long jump, Madeline Wietstruck ’25 conquered the triple jump, and Kierra Francois ’23 dominated the weight throw. Meanwhile, the quartet of Taylor Koftas ’23, Sealan Ledat ’24, Hayley Huck ’24, and CC Gray ’25 dashed to region-best times in the 4x400-meter relay.
On the tennis courts, Trinity Levy ’26 and Cate Cushing ’24 became Trinity’s first regional champions of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Cup since 2019. With the win comes All-American status, making Levy the first Tiger rookie to earn that title since 2011.
Many of Trinity’s teams are also led by women who are blazing their own trails. As a student-athlete, Head Cross Country Coach Emily Daum ’09 became the first Tiger All-American in cross country, and, for good measure, she did it four times. Now as a coach, she sent a runner to the NCAA Championships for the seventh straight year in 2022.
In her third year as head softball coach, Abby Martin brought the Tigers back to the SCAC Tournament Final for the first time since 2016. In the process, she also won her 100th career game.
To add a cherry on top of the infinitely tiered cake that is success among Trinity women’s sports, how about a couple more Sweet 16 appearances? Well, Women’s Basketball and Women’s Soccer delivered.
On the pitch, Women’s Soccer advanced to the third round of the NCAA Championships for the third straight year, with First Team All-Americans Bailey Meyer ’23 and Molly Sheridan ’23 leading the charge. Sheridan also earned a $10,000 NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship, awarded to only 126 student-athletes across the country who excel athletically and academically.
Inside Calgaard Gym, Women’s Basketball capped off a historic 28-win season by advancing to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season. During that campaign, Ashlyn Milton ’23 rewrote Trinity’s record books. Milton’s 230 career three-point shots made are the most by a Tiger, and the Region 10 Player of the Year finished her career with the best three-point shooting percentage in school history.
“I am so grateful for our program and for the resources we have,” Milton says. “It’s really cool to be at a school where you’re not just thriving, but everyone around you is also thriving.”
While Milton feels Trinity is doing well when it comes to equality between men’s and women’s sports, she says the rest of society could still use some work.
“I think that there’s still the stigma that men are better at sports, that they’re more fun to watch and more exciting,” Milton says. “It started with getting that first equality in law through Title IX, but now I think it comes down to conversations. It comes down to people calling out people who say, ‘Well, women can’t play sports’ or ‘Women aren’t as good at sports.’ You’ve got to speak up.”
Milton, along with DeVore and Jenkins, all independently acknowledged someone who has spoken up. Betsy Gerhardt Pasley ’77 recently released a book titled From the Sidelines to the Headlines: The Legacy of Women’s Sports at Trinity University, which captures previously untold stories about female student-athletes and coaches at Trinity.
Jenkins is highlighted in the book, having lived through many changes, which even she admits she should talk more about with her current team. When she first arrived at Trinity, women needed higher GPAs than men to compete in sports, and they could only practice before 3:30 p.m. After years of evolution, that is far from the case today.
“One of the reasons I’ve stayed at Trinity all these years is because it is equitable. We treat every sport the same,” Jenkins says. “We’re proud of all we’ve accomplished and what we’re still doing. Every year, we’re trying to get that much better.”