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She blazed a trail for women to follow PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 17 May 2017 19:44

Port’s Kathy Andrykowski, a standout basketball, volleyball player at Marquette during the advent of women’s collegiate athletics, receives MU lifetime achievement award

When Kathy Andrykowski played basketball and volleyball for Marquette University, it was the advent of women’s collegiate sports.

Title IX, which prohibited discrimination against women in athletics, had just been signed into law a few years earlier, and Andrykowski received one of the college’s first athletic scholarships for women.

basketball LAndrykowski, who lives in Port Washington today, proved a standout athlete in a fledgling program. She earned letters in both sports all four years she was at Marquette, setting a number of records — some of which stand today — and played basketball professionally in the U.S. and Europe. 

She received the 1980 McCahill Award, given to the senior athlete who demonstrated the highest performance in scholarship, leadership and athletics. In 2005, she became the first woman at Marquette to have her basketball jersey retired, and in 1991 she was the first female inductee to the Marquette M Club Hall of Fame.

She recently added one more honor to the list— a lifetime achievement award from Marquette’s athletic department.

“I’m blessed,” Andrykowski said simply when asked about the honor. “I think those experiences shaped me. They taught me time management and organizational skills. When I played overseas, I learned how to relate to people of all cultures.  I learned a lot of language skills.”

Sports has always been part of Andrykowski’s life. Her father played football at the University of Wisconsin-Madison — the team went to the Rose Bowl while he was there — and her siblings are athletic as well.

“We were always outside playing and running around,” she said.

At 6 feet, 3 inches tall, Andrykowski and running around,” she said.

At 6 feet, 3 inches tall, Andrykowski was a natural fit for the basketball and volleyball teams at St. Mary’s Academy in St. Francis, and also played on the tennis and softball teams.

When she graduated high school in 1976, Andrykowski said, Marquette offered her a $500 athletic scholarship to play basketball and volleyball.

She played all positions on the volleyball team, and was the lead spiker — “I wasn’t a good blocker,” she said — was a four-time Wisconsin Women’s Athletic Conference player and captain of the team in 1980.

The center on the basketball team, Andrykowski missed half her freshman and junior basketball seasons with Achilles tendon problems. But she averaged about 20 points a game and 15 rebounds throughout her college career.

“I love to rebound,” she said. 

She was a three-time Wisconsin Women’s Athletic Conference player and co-captain of the team in 1978 and 1979, and at the end of her career she held the top three single-season scoring records in school history. 

She still holds the top three seasonal averages in rebounding, including a mark of 16.8 in 1976-77, and the total number of rebounds in a season at 347 in 1979-80.

But things were different when Andrykowski played ball.There was no Al McGuire Center to play in — the women’s basketball team played in an old gym on 16th and Wisconsin that Andrykowski said was similar to her high school gym. The training room was bare bones, she said, and doubled as the laundry room.

And unlike today, when teams fly across the country to play, Andrykowski and her teammates traveled in a van to colleges throughout the Midwest as they played in the NAIA. The girls got a per diem to help cover their costs.

“When we’d drive back from a trip, we’d go to Gilles,” Andrykowski said. “We could afford that with our per diem.”

Andrykowski graduated from Marquette with a degree in finance in 1980 and was drafted by the New York Stars in the Womens Professional Basketball League.

The team folded, however, so Andrykowski tried out for the New Orleans Pride and made the team.

She played a reserve role initially but worked her way up to a starting role. The team played in the Superdome, albeit a “little corner” of the facility, with a regular  crowd of 500 to 1,000 fans.

“I thought we had a pretty good following,” Andrykowski said, noting that even at Marquette they regularly played in front of a few hundred people.

 

“It was fun,” Andrykowski said. “We made enough to live on, but I didn’t become rich.”

But the league folded, and Andrykowski was out of a job. She returned to Milwaukee and worked at the Red Carpet Inn near the airport, but after a year she decided to hit the hardwood again. She hired an agent and got a tryout, and ultimately a contract, with the Nottingham Wildcats in England.

“The level there was pretty primitive,” Andrykowski said, noting the team was just starting out. 

In addition to playing, she also taught basketball to children in the afternoon, an attempt by the team to develop the sport in England.

After a year, she parted ways with the team and tried out for a team in Busto Arsizio, Italy, which is near Milan. Andrykowski spent three years playing for the team.

“I loved it,” she said. “I had a great time. We never won anything, but we were always up there (in the standings). The facility was a community gym. We’d get a few hundred people to turn out.”

Again, she taught youngsters in her off hours, but this time it was something she did because she wanted to.

“I loved Italy,” Andrykowski said. “I loved the country and I loved the language. I loved the cooking and the wine. I loved the people.”

But after three years, the team decided to part ways with Andrykowski, but she wasn’t done with basketball yet. She tried out for the Royg Tortosa in Spain.

“We won everything,” she said, a contrast to her other teams, which were consistently above .500. “We won the championship, the European Cup. We played throughout Europe. It was great, and it was wonderful to finally win something.”

Andrykowski only played for one season. Her Achilles tendon was giving her trouble again, so she decided to hang up her jersey and retire at 29.

Andrykowski returned to the States and began her next career. She worked for a time at First Wisconsin Bank, held a number of positions with an Illinois auction company and then spent 20 years at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She worked in grant research management and human resources.

Until she was 40, she continued to play hoops.

“I never really stopped playing,” Andrykowski said. “I just played at a different level, recreationally.”

She retired several years ago, moved to Wisconsin and married Scott Woltzen — all in the span of a few months. She now works part-time for the City of Mequon.

And she and her husband continue to watch Marquette volleyball matches and basketball games. It’s kind of a “cool feeling” to walk into the McGuire center and see her jersey hanging there, Andrykowski said.

“I work with a woman whose daughter is of playing age. She told me they went to the McGuire center and saw my jersey hanging there,” Andrykowski said. “She told her daughter ‘I know that woman.’

“How cool is that?”

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 17 May 2017 19:54
 
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