Auburn’s outstanding female athletes have stayed in the spotlight this March.
Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy’s basketball team made its second consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament while Clint Myers’ softball club continues adding wins and making history on the diamond.
Earlier this month, women’s tennis earned its highest ranking (No. 4) in program history, and the No. 4 Auburn equestrian team defeated No. 1 Baylor on the road. Even at the end of 2016, coach Karen Hoppa’s soccer team earned a berth to the NCAA quarterfinals and finished eighth in the final NSCAA ranking — the best in program history. The team had its postseason banquet on Sunday.
The successes are more than fitting considering March is Women’s History Month.
High-achieving women are not new to Auburn athletics, either. Since Title IX was implemented in 1972, female athletes have made their mark as Tigers and gone on to secure more prestigious professional and Olympic honors.
“Women have had an effect,” former Auburn athletic director David Housel told SEC Country. “They’ve changed the face and to some extent the focus of the athletic department. They’ve influenced the fan base, rallied the Auburn people. People have gotten to where they notice women’s athletics. And if a team is successful they take great pride in it.”
The contributions span all sports and still are being made. Here’s a look at some of the greatest female athletes so far in Auburn Tigers history.
Sport: Women’s basketball, 1985-89
Key stats: 1,176 career points, 526 assists, 246 steals, 51.1 percent career shooter
Why she’s here: Bolton may have followed her older sister to the Plains, but in four years she left her own legacy at Auburn and then in the world of women’s basketball.
She helped the Tigers rack up three SEC championships and make four NCAA Tournament trips, including two Final Fours. The Mississippi native holds records for games played (132) and steals in a game (10). She also totaled 1,176 points (ranks 24th) and sits at 5th on the all-time assist list.
Bolton, the 1991 USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year, became a two-time Olympic gold medalist (1996, 2000) and was quick to make her mark in the newly-formed WNBA as well. She scored more than 2,000 career points. In 2011, Bolton was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
Sport: Women’s basketball, 1985-89
Key stats: 2,035 points, 1,006 rebounds, 191 blocks
Why she’s here: Years before she was a nervous wreck watching her son Austin play in Auburn Arena, Vickie Orr was a force on the hardwood alongside Bolton.
The Decatur, Ala., native garnered nearly two dozen honors as a Tiger. After beginning her career as a freshman All-SEC selection, Orr was a WBCA All-America First Team honoree three times and was named the SEC Tournament MVP in ’87 and the SEC Player of the Year in 1988. Orr helped put Auburn’s women’s basketball on a national stage, leading the Tigers to the NCAA Final Four in 1988 and 1989.
From 1985-89, Orr started all but three games (128 of 131) solidifying the record for career starts. She holds the career field goal record (864) and is third all-time in scoring (2,035 points). The 6-foot-3 center ranks fourth all-time in rebounds (1,006), fourth in blocks (191) and in the top 10 for free throws made and attempted.
Orr won gold as a member of the U.S. team at the 1990 World Championships and secured a bronze medal at the 1992 Olympics. After that she returned to Auburn, serving as an assistant coach during the Tigers’ Sweet 16 run in 1993. In 2013 Orr was named to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.
Sport: Women’s basketball (1988-91)
Key stats: 1,831 points, 41.5 career 3-point shooting percentage
Why she’s here: Jones joined Bolton and Orr a little late, but she added more excellence to Auburn’s roster. Jones was a two-time WBCA first team All-American, a two-time SEC player of the Year (1990, 1991) as well as a member of the NCAA Final Four team in 1990.
The 5-foot-9 guard totaled 1,831 points (5th all-time) and landed at No. 2 in career scoring average (18.3). For years, she has held the highest 3-point field goal percentage (.415) and career free throw percentage (.810).
Jones played with Orr, helping the U.S. earn its bronze medal at the 1992 Olympics and also played for the New England Blizzard in the American Basketball League until 1998. After that, the Mississippi native spent time with the WNBA’s New York Liberty and Portland Fire.
Sports: Women’s basketball (2005-09)
Key stats: 2,162 points, 1,047 rebounds, 139 blocks
Why she’s here: Bonner was born the year before the previously mentioned trio lifted Auburn to its most successful stretch in program history, but Bonner would help the Tigers to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2008-09.
Bonner was a WBCA and USBWA First Team All-American in 2009 — the same year she was recognized as SEC Player of the Year. By her senior season, Bonner had solidified her place as Auburn’s all-time leading scorer (2,162 points) and stolen Jones’ spot as the career free throws made leader. She also recorded the most double-doubles (40) in Auburn history.
In 2009, the Phoenix Mercury selected Bonner with the fifth overall pick in the WNBA Draft. Later that year the Mercury would win the league championship for the second time in three years. Bonner also played professionally in Spain, Russia and the Czech Republic.
Sport: Swimming (2002-05)
Key stats: 5-time Olympian, 7-time Olympic medal winner, won 7 NCAA women’s titles, All-American 2002-05
Why she’s here: Coventry traveled a long way from her native Zimbabwe to become a Tiger. Eventually she earned three SEC titles and capped her senior year by becoming the first Auburn woman to win an Olympic event (200-meter backstroke) at the Athens Games in 2004. She also won a silver in the 100 backstroke and bronze in the 200 IM in ’04.
In 2003, she was a member of three Auburn relays that won NCAA titles, won the 200 back in 2004, followed by wins in the 200IM, 400IM and 200 back the following season.
Coventry added a gold medal in the 200 backstroke in Beijing in 2008, along with silver medals in the 100 backstroke, 200IM and 400IM.
She competed in her fifth Olympic games in Rio in 2016.
Sport: Track and field
Key stats: Holds Auburn records in the 100m (11.03) and 200m (22.41) outdoor events
Why she’s here: Lining up next to Stewart on a track in the 2000s was not a frivolous feat. Originally from St. Catherine, Jamaica, Stewart was named an All-American eight times as a collegian, helping her become the second-most decorated Auburn female athlete in school history.
In 2007, Stewart was the second Auburn athlete to win two national titles at one NCAA Championships (60m/200m). That same year she also was an SEC champion and the National Indoor Track Athlete of the Year. With a time of 7.14 and 22.46 in the 60m and 200m respectively, Stewart set school, meet and facility records at the SEC Championships in 2007.
Stewart won silver in the 100m (10.98) and a bronze in the 200m (22.00) at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Four years later she snagged silver as a member of Jamaica’s 4x100m relay team.
Sport: Track and field (2008-11)
Key stats: No. 1 in school history with 52.24-second run in 400m indoor and second in the 400m outdoor (50.39)
Why she’s here: Atkins got off to a strong start as a freshman at Auburn by setting school freshman records in the 100m and 400m. The next season, Atkins ran the last leg of the 4x400m relay, helping the Tigers earn third place at the SEC Indoor Championships. Her success continued.
In 2009, Atkins finished fourth (53.12) in the 400m, was named All-American and also captured the SEC title in the 400m with a season-best time (52.61). When the outdoor season began, Atkins won the NCAA individual title in the 400m with a personal-best time of 50.39 seconds in the finals.
At the USA Championships in 2014, Atkins won a bronze medal in the outdoor 200m and would finish as the runner-up in the indoor 400m.
Sport: Swimming (2003-05)
Key stats: Won 200 freestyle NCAA titles in 2004 and 2005 and swam nearly 12 seconds faster in 2005 (1:44.60 compared to 1:56.16).
Why she’s here: Hoelzer is another name synonymous with success and swimming. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Hoelzer won two silver medals (200m backstroke, 400m medley relay) and a bronze medal (100m backstroke).
As a Tiger, Hoelzer was a member of the 200m medley relay team that set an NCAA and U.S. Open record (1:49.02) for the second-straight season. The Huntsville, Ala., native was also the SEC champion in the 400 free relay (set a conference record). As a sophomore in 2003, Hoelzer was ranked No. 2 in the world in the 200m back (2:09.24).
Katy (Frierson) Freels
Sport: Soccer (2008-11)
Key stats: Tied for all-time assists in a season (13 in 2011), third for career goals (31), first in career assists (42), first in career points (104) and tied for first in game-winning goals (11).
Why she’s here: Katy Freels (formerly Frierson) was a successful soccer player before she ever stepped foot on the Auburn campus. This Homewood, Ala., product was a member of the US U-23 national team which that won the 2008 Nordic Cup in Sweden. The No. 7 recruit in the nation then made a smooth transition when she arrived on the Plains.
In her first season as a Tiger, Frierson earned honors including: First Team All-SEC, SEC All-Freshman, Auburn offensive MVP, Rookie of the Year in addition to being named a member of the Freshman All-American team and the SEC Freshman of the Year.
By the end of her senior season, Frierson was a four-time first-team All-SEC selection and a two-time All-America selection. The Tigers became the first SEC West Division team to win the league’s automatic NCAA Tournament bid in 2011.
In 2012, Frierson was chosen 10th overall in the Women’s Professional Soccer draft by the Atlanta Beat. When the league folded, Frierson was a first-round pick by the Sky Blue FC of the National Women’s Soccer League.
Sport: Softball (2014-17)
Key stats: Set Auburn single-season records in 2016 for games started (70), RBIs (83), home runs (21), walks (71), on-base percentage (.581), slugging percentage (.880) and total bases (163).
Why she’s here: Cooper stands at just 5-foot-4, but her list of awards and honors seems to go on forever.
Though she still has time left in her career as a Tiger, Cooper will be one of the all-time greats by the time she plays in her final game at Jane B. Moore field. Last weekend, the senior became just the second player in SEC history to notch 150 career hits and 250 career RBIs.
Before her final campaign as a Tiger began, Cooper was named to the USA softball roster for the second straight year. She’s the only player in Auburn softball history to play in a U.S. jersey and on an international level. Last season the three-time All-American was named the SEC Player of the Year and the ESPNW national player of the year.
Cooper holds all-time records in career home runs, RBIs and batting average and led the Tigers to the Women’s College World Series championship series last year.