Marianne Reilly, a member of the Manhattan College women’s basketball team, entered the game against St. Francis in 1981 with just about 980 points under her belt.
She left that game with the title of the first woman to score 1,000 points in the short history of the women’s varsity basketball program at MC.
“I remember looking at the oval pictures that were in Draddy Gymnasium,” Reilly said. “I just stood there innocently, and I looked at Junius Kellogg, Brother Jasper, Vincent Draddy and I went, ‘I wonder when the first female will be.’”
Eleven years later, Marianne Reilly was the first woman inducted into MC’s Athletic Hall of Fame with a career high of 1,305 points and 860 rebounds.
Reilly was one of the original members of MC’s varsity women’s basketball team but said that she owes a lot of the credit to the women’s basketball club program.
“Certainly the women that went before me laid the groundwork and actually did a lot of hard work being trailblazers in creating a women’s program at Manhattan,” Reilly said.
Reilly was recruited for MC’s first ever women’s varsity basketball team in 1978 and was the first woman to receive an athletic grant-in-aid at MC, according to a MC press release from August 1978.
Michele Blatt, the first appointed coach for the women’s basketball team, said in the same press release, “with players like [Reilly], the future of women’s basketball at Manhattan College should be exciting.”
In Reilly’s point of view, Blatt had a tough job taking on a program that was going from club to varsity at the Division I level.
“The growing pains of a brand new program were probably the most difficult,” Reilly said. “Getting to know a brand new coach who didn’t really recruit you and the expectations probably exceeded anything we had been exposed to in the past.”
The toughest part of Reilly’s college basketball career was creating a program from scratch.
“There were a lot of growing pains,” she said. “We started out with a very small team. I think we had ten players the first year. So if you got injured, the team really suffered.”
In Reilly’s third seasons with the Jaspers, she averaged 15 points and 9 rebounds per game.
Lisa Toscano, the senior captain for team when Reilly joined as a freshman in 1978, said Reilly was tough, strong and talented.
“She helped develop the Lady J’s from a club team to a reputable contender against some very good competition in the area,” Toscano said. “Marianne was an incredible rebounder. If the ball was anywhere in her vicinity it was in her hands.”
Reilly remembers playing established teams like Rutgers, Duke, University of North Carolina Wilmington and George Washington.
The really big losses weren’t fun but Reilly said that those games were the team’s tests to take it up a notch.
“But with every difficult experience something good comes out of it,” Reilly said.
Despite growing pains and a few tough first seasons, Reilly lead her team as a junior to its first ever-winning season with a 17-12 record.
Reilly told the Riverdale Press in the fall of 1981 that if her freshman year was the most enjoyable, than her junior year had to be the most rewarding.
Reilly had thoughts of playing for a team after college in Italy but when Germany was the only team to show interest, Reilly decided that she would go into teaching instead.
“After much thought and discussions, I decided to move forward and begin my teaching profession and pursue my master’s degree while coaching,” she said. “I am very happy with the decision I made to teach and coach, and I have never regretted not playing in Europe.”
Reilly graduated in 1982 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education and is now the senior associate athletic director at Fordham University.
“The rewards are endless,” she said. “The world of athletics opens up so many doors. I really think to be able to play the sport that I love and now that I’ve made it an offshoot of my profession, there’s nothing better than that.”
Reilly said she couldn’t have asked for more of her time at MC because she attended college, had her education paid for and played the sport she loved.
“I try to communicate that to our teams, especially to women’s teams, because we’ve come a long way and I never want to see our women’s teams taken for granted,” Reilly said.
Reilly said that her biggest accomplishment thus far has been her induction as the first female into the Manhattan Athletic Hall of Fame.
Reilly was called a charter member of the varsity Lady Jaspers and an early pacesetter in terms of career records in a MC sport’s press release from January 1982.
The press release also said that with each point, rebound and blocked shot, Reilly established a new career standard.
“That’s the best part about the first, you’re the first to set the records and those who come after break your records, which is just fine by me,” Reilly said. “You fail when you fail to try.
That was probably instilled in me when I was playing at Manhattan.”