Howard upset top-seeded Mount St. Mary's, 62-55, in the semifinals of the Catholic University Invitational women's tournament yesterday, and will play in today's championship game against a George Washington team whose coach has been absent since the tournament started Friday night.
The Colonials (13-10), with Assistant Coach Luke Ruppel replacing Coach Lin Gehlert on the bench, beat Loyola (Md.), 75-66, in the other semifinal. Gehlert's absence, according to at least one team member, is the culmination of three years of feuding between Gehlert and her players. Gehlert is ending her third season as coach.
According to two other sources, Gehlert telephoned her players Friday and asked them if they wanted her to coach them that night. The answer, according to the player, was unanimous: No. Lynne George, the GW women's athletic director, would say only that Gelhert is on "a recruiting trip." All GW players and coaches at the game declined comment.
Gehlert is not expected for today's 7 p.m. championship game, either, the player said. That game will follow a 5 p.m. third-place game between Loyola and Mount St. Mary's and a 3 p.m. consolation game between George Mason and American U., which defeated Catholic, 91-54, yesterday behind Jacqui Frazier's 21 points.
According to the GW player, the team's two seniors, Betsy Luxford and Laurie Cann, went to George earlier this season and told the athletic director that they did not like Gehlert and that they wanted Ruppel to replace her.
There were unconfirmed reports that Gehlert has either submitted her resignation or that she has been fired but that no announcement would be made by George until after the tournament ended.
George declined comment through a spokesman when contacted a second time last night.Earlier, she had said, "Give me a call next week."
Gehlert could not be reached for comment.
In yesterday's game, the Colonials got a big lift from 6-foot-1 junior Leslie Bond, who scored 29 points and had 11 rebounds. Scoring almost at will against the smaller Greyhounds, Bond had 20 points in the first half, including 14 of the Colonials' final 16.
In a wild second game, played at a helter-skelter pace, Howard surprised Mount St. Mary's after trailing by two points at halftime despite shooting 23 percent from the floor. Howard (8-13), shooting 53 percent after intermission, went ahead for good, 39-37, on a basket by Julie Murphy with 11:40 to play.