BALTIMORE - Diane Geppi-Aikens, former Loyola University Maryland head women's lacrosse coach, was formally inducted, posthumously, into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame Saturday evening at the Grand Lodge in Hunt Valley during the 2015 induction ceremony, sponsored by RPS-Bollinger Sports & Leisure and the Markel Insurance Company.
Geppi-Aikens was one of nine officially inducted, as Jake Curran, Dom Fin, Bob Hartranft, Julie Hull Elicker, Charlie Lockwood, Sarah Nelson, Maggie Vaughan and Brian Voelker joined Geppi-Aikens as the Class of 2015.
One of the most decorated women's collegiate coaches of the past three decades, Geppi-Aikens was inducted as a 'truly great coach, as approved by the US Lacrosse Board of Directors and announced on Wednesday, May 20, 2015, by US Lacrosse.
"Almost every year, I'd see her team and think 'oh, this is a rebuilding year, they're not going to do anything this year' and inevitably, they would be in the playoffs because she was that good of a coach," Sue Diffenderffer, longtime women's game offical and Geppi-Aikens' presenter, said during her speech. "As a coach, she was very intense, but very rational."
Geppi-Aikens served as head coach at her alma mater from 1989-2003, where she amassed a record of 197-71. Her teams won seven conference titles and advanced to 10 NCAA tournaments in her 15 seasons as head coach, including making seven national semifinal appearances and one NCAA title game. Throughout her career, she produced 29 All-Americans and was selected as the IWLCA's Division I Coach of the Year on three occasions, winning the honor in 1996, 1997 and 2003.
In 1995, Geppi-Aikens started getting seizures and was diagnosed with brain cancer. She went on to have three brain surgeries, but in December 2002, her cancer became terminal. Even though she was partially paralyzed, she continued to coach, including coaching her last year from a wheelchair while leading her team to a No. 1 ranking in the country.
A member of the NCAA Women's Lacrosse Committee from 1995-99, Geppi-Aikens also served as the chairperson of the committee for two years. She received the Tewaaraton Lifetime Recognition Award in 2001 and both the NCAA's Inspiration Award and the ECAC's Award of Valor in 2003.
Every year since her passing, Loyola has held the Diane Geppi-Aikens 5k race and 1-mile fun walk on the third Saturday in September, while the school also established its first-ever endowed scholarship for a female student-athlete in Geppi-Aikens' memory in 2015.
In addition, in recognition of her lifetime achievement in contribution to women's lacrosse, the Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) presents annually the Diane Geppi-Aikens Memorial Award.
Geppi-Aikens, who passed away from brain cancer in 2003, was previously inducted into two other halls of fame, the Loyola College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1984 and the US Lacrosse Greater Baltimore Chapter Hall of Fame in 2001.
Tickets for the 2015 National Lacrosse Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, sponsored by RPS Bollinger and the Markel Insurance Company, will be available to the public for purchase beginning August 1. Tickets will be sold online at www.uslacrosse.org/HOF.
The National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, a program of US Lacrosse, was established in 1957 to honor men and women who by their deeds as players, coaches, officials and/or contributors, and by the example of their lives, personify the great contribution of lacrosse to our way of life. Just over 400 lacrosse greats are honored in the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, which is located with the Lacrosse Museum at US Lacrosse Headquarters in Baltimore.
What people said upon learning about Diane Geppi-Aikens' induction into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame
Diane is an inspiration to the entire lacrosse community. Her passion for the game was only matched by the pride that she had in Loyola and her players. We strive every day to uphold the legacy that Diane created here at Loyola. As a young coach, I had always admired and respected how Diane taught the game of lacrosse and how she shaped her players into successful and bright young women. She continues to serve as my inspiration to surround this program with the highest caliber people. - Jen Adams, Loyola head women's lacrosse coach
It is difficult to put into words what Diane Geppi-Aikens means to me and to the sport of lacrosse. She was a special person and her loss is still felt by so many today. Her impact on Loyola, her players and all of those who knew her will live on forever. Diane was a fierce competitor and coach, and a loving mother to Michael, Jessica, Melissa and Shannon. She was my mentor and friend. Diane worked hard, but always took time out to enjoy her life even stopping practice to tell a funny story or impart some colorful wisdom on the team. The lessons she taught me, and all those who were fortunate to play for her, have helped shape the women we are today. I can think of no one more deserving of this honor than Diane. - Erica Attonito (Class of 1997)
I was fortunate enough to play with and work alongside Diane for many years. She was such a strong and independent role model for our women student-athletes. She taught them to stand up for what they believed in and instilled in them the belief that they could make a difference on-and-off the field. She was tough but caring, and was the type of motivator that made you want to work hard. I was inspired every day watching the way she worked and lived; doing everything her way, not the way other people might have done it. I've never met anyone else quite like her. The players that she coached are still a tight knit group today because of the community and family atmosphere that Diane instilled in everyone here at Loyola. It truly is a bond that will never be broken. I continue to be amazed and inspired by the legacy she left every day. - Teddi Burns (Class of 1986), Loyola's Associate Director of Athletics for Facilities and Operations
As the former President of the Greater Baltimore Chapter, I was stunned that she was not already in the National Hall of Fame. This is a long overdue accolade. As an official of her games, in which she was a goalie and later as the coach at Loyola, Diane was always one of the fairest coaches I knew. I will always remember her throwing her hands up after a call and saying, "Suuuueee, " but it was always forgotten by the next game. Speaking with her former players now, they will always say she was the best coach they ever had, and most have said they have gotten life-long advice from her, not just about lacrosse but about how to live their lives as well. Whether as a player, coach or mother, they are now molding young players. She continues to give back to the sport through her children and her players. - Sue Diffenderffer, women's lacrosse official
What Diane did for us as players and for Loyola was way beyond coaching a lacrosse team on the field. The experiences and what she brought to us was a life lesson, she was a life coach. It's wonderful that she's being honored and it's so beyond being well deserved. The lessons we all learned from her are still being carried out every day of our lives. I'm so proud of Di and the Loyola family. - Suzanne Eyler Williams (Class of 2003)
As a coach and mentor, Diane was one-of-a-kind. She was the perfect balance of competition and compassion, strategy and skill, lifting you up but not letting you get too high, fight to the end and family comes first, seize the moment and live to be better, serious and smiles, mother and leader, courage and humility, loud mental toughness and quiet motivation... the list goes on-and-on. She treated each of us as women, not girls, and she was direct with no nonsense, yet always picked us up if we stumbled - eventually, teaching us that picking each other up was the key. She had the ability to make myself and my teammates believe that we could actually move the mountain in front of us, and to never give up. She knew how to teach a bunch of hard-working athletes to believe in themselves and to have undeniable chemistry, confidence and compassion in the form of a true team - both on-and-off the field. No one person was more important than any other, and under her leadership, we believed and we thrived. We knew that she cared about us as competitors, but more importantly, as people. We all feel so proud to represent Loyola and to have been her `Hounds. - Kristin Hagert (Class of 2001)
I cannot think of a better coach to be inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Diane is so deserving of this wonderful honor. An icon in the sport of women's lacrosse, Diane had an amazing ability not only as a teacher of the game, but as a teacher of life, as well. She had a unique ability to motivate her players and she influenced so many of her former players to continue giving back to the sport as coaches. Her impact on the game is not even measurable and is engrained as part of women's lacrosse. - Kerri Johnson O'Day (Class of 1997)
In my opinion, Diane Geppi-Aikens epitomizes what it means to be a Hall of Fame Coach - passionate about the game, dedicated to her players, a tremendous role model and a pillar of strength, courage and class. I am thrilled to hear she is being inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame. She is my inspiration as a coach each and every day." - Janine Tucker (Class of 1989), Johns Hopkins head women's lacrosse coach
It's hard to put into words just how much Di meant to me personally. Playing for her, and coaching with her, was truly amazing. She helped make me the person and coach that I am today! The lessons I've learned from her I use every day. She made playing about so much more than just lacrosse and helped us see there was a bigger picture. She was tough, very tough, and was hard on us, but always managed to make things fun! I think about her a lot, many of us do! She is still missed but her spirit lives on in all of her players! I am so thrilled she is being inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame; she deserves this! I hope they have room for all of us, as there will be a huge crowd that night. - Monica Yeakel (Class of 1994), Loyola women's lacrosse color analyst for Patriot League Network