Webster University is the first school in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) to win 100 conference championships.
Prior to the start of the 2022-2023 school year, Webster had 98 conference championships, which is 23 more than Greenville University who is second in conference championships. It was Webster University’s Women’s Basketball team who snatched win number 100 in conference championships on February 12 in Illinois at Principia College.
Webster University has made history in the SLIAC and continues to do so under the current Athletic Director, Scott Kilgallon. Kilgallon has been at Webster University since April 2014, and since then, Webster has won 48 of their 100 SLIAC Conference Championships.
“We have a really good coaching staff, [and] a very good support staff with the athletic trainers, sports information [and] upper administration,” Kilgallon said.
Before Kilgallon started at Webster University, Tom Hart was the athletic director. Hart now serves as the Commissioner of the USA South Athletic Conference. However, Hart is the longest tenured Webster University Athletic Director, with 19 years in said role.
Hart was the athletic director for Webster University’s first SLIAC championship win, which was taken home by the women’s volleyball team in 1994.
“That [women’s volleyball] was the first program that provided a glimpse of what was possible for Webster Athletics down the road,” Hart said.
One 1994 women’s volleyball player is Molly Farrell Orlando. According to the volleyball record books, Orlando holds the career record for attack percentage, blocks per set and points per set. Orlando is also one of five volleyball players in the Webster Athletics Hall of Fame.
“I was deeply honored [to make the hall of fame]. It sincerely touched me,” Orlando said. “I didn’t know I had made an impact, and here I am. I’m going to be 50 in a couple weeks, and with that comes looking back at your life and hoping you made an impact somewhere.“
Orlando played Division I volleyball her freshman year at the University of Missouri Columbia, but wanted to leave the sport during the summer between her freshman and sophomore year. After taking a gap year, she found Webster University.
“It had been a long time since I enjoyed playing the sport,” Orlando said. “That is what I remember about playing for Webster. I truly enjoyed the sport again.”
When asked about her favorite memory with Webster athletics, Orlando mentioned a picture of her and a teammate after winning the 1994 conference championship.
“We had just won the conference and I was hugging one of my teammates,” Orlando said. “My smile was just as genuine of a smile [as] I’d ever seen on myself. I know that that brought me such great joy.”
Webster University Athletics has not only gained championships over the years, but it has gained athletes as well.
“When I started as athletic director, we had eight sports and about 72 student athletes in the entire program. So, when a team won like volleyball did, it was a big thing for everybody,” Hart said.
Webster University has since gone from eight sports and 72 athletes to 15 sports and over 230 athletes.
Hart says that hiring full-time coaches and consistent, more advanced facilities were key to the success of Webster sports.
“While I was there physically for 53 of [Webster’s conference championships], the thing that I find rewarding is the fact that the coaches we were able to bring to Webster have stuck around and done great things,” Hart said. “That part for me is special because you need consistent coaching.”
At the mention of Hart’s name, Orlando expressed interest in what he is doing currently. Hart’s impact is still felt by athletes 25 years later.
Another key part of Webster sports for the last 17 years has been Webster’s baseball team, which has won all 15 conference championships in that time. With one year being canceled because of COVID-19, baseball coach Bill Kurich is undefeated in his SLIAC history. Not only is Kurich undefeated, but baseball is the winningest sport in Webster’s SLIAC history.
“Going out and working hard to find good college student athletes is the key to the whole thing.” Kurich said. “You create a culture, and once the culture gets created you hope to keep it going with good incoming players.”