Athletic Hall of Honor
2013 Inductees: Women's tennis team and Fred Saunders
1980-81 Women’s Tennis Team Junior College National Champions
For Leonie Thorne ’81, Yasuko Yoshida ’81, Brenda Niemeyer ’81 and Penny Fitzpatrick ’81, 1980 and 1981 were memorable years at Schreiner College when they won the Women’s National Tennis Championship. Now, in 2013, it is another milestone as they are honored for their athletic careers and inducted into the Schreiner University Athletic Hall of Honor.
Niemeyer, who played singles and doubles, with Fitzpatrick, said the national championship was exciting and well deserved for her hard-working coach and team. Efforts to reach the other members of the team were unsuccessful.l Tennis Championship. Now, in 2013, it is another milestone as they are honored for their athletic careers and inducted into the Schreiner University Athletic Hall of Honor.
“We all got on very well,” she said. “Everyone was a very hard worker, and coach (William) Rogers (inducted into the SU Athletic Hall of Honor in 2011) was just too much fun. We had some really good wins along the way, including beating the University of Texas tennis team.”
During the 1980-1981 tennis season, the Lady Mountaineers were undefeated in dual match play against other junior colleges and ranked somewhere around No. 2 in the nation. The team was led by the No. 1 singles player, Thorne, from Australia, who also teamed with Yoshida, from Japan, for doubles. Thorne and Yoshida also were named to the All-American team at the competition.
Niemeyer, who originally attended Schreiner for the tennis program, said she experienced a lot on and off the courts during her freshman year.
“Schreiner was a very friendly place,” she said. “It was a very eye-opening experience, especially playing with girls from Australia and Japan. I do remember always studying, too. It was tough, but I had a great rookie year. We were a very solid team.”
After the championship season, coach Rogers retired and Niemeyer left to pursue tennis elsewhere. She graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio and hit the pro tour until injury ended her playing days.
Since her pro tour days, Niemeyer has worked with the Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, coached at UTSA and now is the head women’s tennis coach at St. Edwards University in Austin.
According to Niemeyer, she learned a lot in her year at Schreiner, but the one thing she feels is the most valuable pertains to both the game of tennis and life.
“A match is a lot like life,” she said. “You have to hang in there—there is a lot of ebb and flow—and if you hold on long enough and stay positive, you can make it through.”
Mr. Fred Saunders ’51
Fred Saunders ’51, a Schreiner alumnus and new Athletic Hall of Honor inductee, says his basketball career was a bit of an accident.
“I was playing basketball at Mission High School, and of the eight teams in the district, seven of them played outside on dirt courts—it was very primitive,” Saunders said. “A recruiter from Schreiner Institute came to town and the principal suggested he speak with me. I was offered a half scholarship. Schreiner was the only one in the nation to offer something like that.”
The Schreiner basketball team traveled with 12 players and Fred was No. 13, so he spent his days working in the dining room to pay for college until he made the traveling squad and his “half” scholarship took effect.
Saunders said the first accident that led to his playing days was how he made the traveling squad.
“The coach decided the team would practice nine days before school resumed in January, so the players had to return early from Christmas break,” he said. “Well, one of the members of the traveling squad didn’t want to give up his break, so I got moved up. Over the next nine days, we practiced twice a day— that was the most intensive instruction I’ve ever had. I made such progress in those nine days that I got to start the next game, and I became the high scorer for the remainder of the season.”
The second accident of Saunders’ basketball career took place shortly after the first.
“Back then, freshman couldn’t play varsity sports so University of Texas had a freshman team, and Schreiner scheduled a game with them,” he said. “We beat that UT freshman team, and the UT coaches offered me a full athletic scholarship. Twenty-four months after leaving Mission, I had a full ride to UT because of those two accidents.”
During his basketball days at UT, the team traveled to Madison Square Garden to play, and Saunders stood at mid-court in New York City and pondered how far he’d come from a dirt court in Mission.
After graduating from the University of Texas in Austin Saunders worked as president for Channelview Bank for years before the bank went public and was sold to Wells Fargo in 2000. Today, he is retired, but still manages funds.
Saunders, to this day, believes his life was a series of fortunate accidents, but he is still grateful.
“If not for Schreiner, I never would have gone to UT,” he said. “One of my favorite memories still is beating that UT Freshman team.”