Eastern Mennonite University Athletics honors two individuals and a team at the upcoming Homecoming and Family Weekend. Former athletic trainer Mike Downey (left) will receive the Distinguished Service Award. Hall of Honor inductees are pitcher Lisa Lee Senger and the 2010 basketball team.

EMU Athletics to honor former athletic trainer, pitcher and 2010 basketball team

EMU Athletics is honoring two individuals and one team during the 2022 Homecoming and Family Weekend. Former athletic trainer Mike Downey will receive the Distinguished Service Award. Hall of Honor inductees are the 2010 basketball team and Lisa Lee Senger ‘12.

Mike Downey

Downey retired in December 2020 after 30 years of working with student-athletes. Beginning in 1989, Downey developed the expansion of EMU’s athletic training services from one person to a team of three full-time trainers, a team physician, and work-study students. 

As preceptor for the JMU Athletic Training Education Department, Downey worked with more than 100 athletic training students and counts that among one of his career accomplishments. 

“Thirty years of providing support, often behind-the-scenes, for student-athletes, coaches and teams is a significant achievement and I am deeply grateful for all that Mike has done for the athletic department,” said Director of Athletics Dave King. “I often hear appreciation for Mike from former athletes as they reflect on and recognize the value of his care during their athletic pursuits.” 

Downey was with the Royals teams to many of the biggest athletic moments in school history, including the field hockey team’s trip to the NCAA Final Four in 1995, a tournament trip with the men’s soccer team in 1998, NCAA-qualifying seasons for men’s and women’s basketball, men’s volleyball hosting the Final Four in 2004, and Erik Kratz earning back-to-back ODAC Player of the Year awards in 2001 and 2002.

Lisa Lee Senger ’12

In 19 years with EMU softball, head coach J.D. McCurdy names Lisa Lee Senger ‘12 as the program’s all-time outstanding athlete – “a huge part of our team winning the ODAC Championship that year.” He calls her competitive\, tenacious, resilient, focused and tough. Senger will be inducted into the Hall of Honor in recognition of the mark she made on the EMU softball team.

From left: Christopher, Lincoln, Lisa and Averie Senger. (Courtesy photo)

Lee holds three career records – runs scored (141), total bases (302) and wins (42), as well as multiple single-season records. She led the team to a conference championship and an NCAA berth during her junior year, when she was also ODAC Pitcher of the Year, All-ODAC First Team, VaSID First Team, and the EMU Female Athlete of the Year. She was a two-time All-ODAC Tournament Team selection and earned multiple second-team conference and region honors at the conference level, as well as recognition from Virginia Association of Sports Information Directors and the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.

After working for several years in early childhood and special education, Senger owns a wedding and event planning business. She and husband Christopher have two children ages 2 and 6.

“I encountered many wonderful people both on and off the softball field which made my college experience unforgettable,” she reflected. “In my spare time, I still pick up a softball from time to time and play travel women’s and co-ed slow-pitch. Every time I touch a softball, I’m reminded of how EMU prepared me for the many challenges and joys of life.” 

2010 Men’s Basketball Team

This fall, the first basketball team will be inducted into the university’s Hall of Honor. The 2010 team  that qualified for the Elite Eight and set multiple records along the way was honored in February 2022 at a men’s basketball game. Twelve of the 13 players attended that reunion.

DarrellD.J.” Hinson Jr. came from Colorado where he works as a government IT contractor; George Johnson, now a mental health care provider and entrepreneur from Houston, Texas; Luke Holloran, a musician and educator, from New Orleans. A few of the others were a bit closer: Orie Pancione from Ridgely, West Virginia, where he is principal at Frankfort High School; Austin Twine, a mortgage lender from Christiansburg, and Owen Longacre, a teacher at Spotswood High School. 

And Dean was surprised by their loyal attendance, but then he wasn’t. “How many programs can honor a group of guys and have this many show up?” Dean said in front of a packed crowd. “That says something about family. When we got in a huddle every game while they were here and put their hands in the middle, we said ‘family’ and that’s why they showed up today.”

From left: At a reunion event in February 2022: Head Coach Kirby Dean ‘92, Assistant Coach Mat Huff ‘06, Todd Phillips, class of ‘11; Austin Twine ‘11, Darrell “D.J.” Hinson Jr. ‘14, Jesse White class of ‘13, Eric King class of ‘13; George Johnson ‘11, Orie Pancione ‘12, Owen Longacre ‘14, Eli Crawford class of ‘11, Andrew Thorne ‘14, Cutter Chisnell ‘13, Luke Holloran class of ‘13, Assistant Coach Charles Hale, Assistant Coach Carey Keyes ‘98.  Not pictured but present: Assistant Coach Greg Smith. (Photo by Derrick Chirinos)

“The 2010 season still stands as the greatest single season in the history of EMU men’s basketball,” said former sports information director James DeBoer, who also came to the reunion. “What that group of men accomplished literally put EMU basketball onto the national landscape.”

The D3 Hoops poll reflected that: EMU entered at #24 on Jan. 3 and appeared for 25 consecutive weeks, through the end of the 2010-11 season. During that time, the Royals rose as high as #3 on multiple occasions and never fell below #18. 

“We were also nationally in the top 10 in attendance,” Dean said. “I don’t think many people knew that. In 2009, we were 13 and 0 at home and won games by an average of 19.9 points and that was with me calling off the dogs halfway through the games.”  

After losing in the ODAC tournament, EMU earned an at-large bid to the NCAA National Tournament and hosted their next two games. They beat Centre College, Wilmington and Whitworth, but lost against Guilford, the team they had beaten in the regular season by 27 points. To this day, Dean believes that if his full team had been available (lone senior Austin Twine suffered a season-ending ACL injury in February), the team would have gone to the Final Four. As it was, they were 25-5 and ended the season ranked fourth in the D3 Hoops national poll.

Dean understands the importance of that single season, but he also notes the success of teams before and after. “From 2008 to 2018, only three teams in the ODAC won more games than us. As great as they were for two years, they put our program on the map, they created a culture and that’s why we continued to win after they walked out the door, why we win now and why we will continue to win in the future because they showed it can be done at Eastern Mennonite.”