Women-In-Sports Wednesday: NEC Hall of Famer Chasing Bid to Big Dance with Bethune Cookman

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Vanessa Blair (above) scored 1,488 points in a Mount uniform.

Mount St. Mary’s presence in the women’s basketball wing of the Northeast Conference Hall of Fame tripled this year with the enshrinement of Bill Sheahan and Susie Rowlyk.

The late Sheahan, who oversaw Mount’s successful transition into the NEC, and his former two-time NEC Player of the Year Susie Rowlyk were the key faces during the Mountaineers’ run into the 1994 NCAA Tournament.

Although she competed during the first decade of women’s basketball in the Northeast Conference, Rowlyk was not the first-ever Mountaineer to twice garner NEC Player of the Year honors.

The women who first achieved the feat is the subject of our latest Women-In-Sports Wednesday post – Vanessa Blair.

Well before she landed in the MEAC, current Bethune Cookman head coach Blair was busy dropping buckets in Knott Arena.

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At the time this post was published, Blair’s Bethune Cookman team owned a 9-4 conference record and sat 1.0 game out of first place.

With Mount St. Mary’s joining the NEC in time for Blair’s sophomore season, the star forward proceeded to help her team secure three consecutive first-place finishes (1990, 1991, 1992).

After earning a spot on the 1990 All-NEC Second Team as a complementary player to Mount legend Kim Rhock, Blair went on to secure the conference’s top individual honor in both 1991 and 1992.

In 2012, Blair, who still stands as the Mount’s all-time blocks leader with 242, became the program’s first women’s basketball alumna to earn enshrinement into the NEC Hall of Fame.

Following a professional playing stint, Blair returned to her alma mater to launch a coaching career.

She served as an assistant at Mount beginning in 1996 before taking over as head coach in 1998. She was named NEC Coach of the Year in her inaugural season after leading Mount to a 21-7 overall record during the 1997-98 campaign. Blair, who went on to lead the Mount program through 2007, remains the only person in league annals to be named both NEC Player and Coach of the Year.

Currently in her seventh season as the head coach for Bethune Cookman, Blair is search for the NCAA Tournament bid that she was never able to secure during her days in Emmitsburg.

During her playing days, the NEC did not yet have automatic access into the NCAA championship bracket. Then, as a coach, Blair came closest in 2001 when her regular season champion Mountaineers fell to LIU Brooklyn in the NEC title tilt.

Blair, who slipped into her current post in time for the 2008-09 season, picked up the MEAC Coach of the Year award in 2010.

Now married to Eric Lewis, Blair is a mother of one.

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