LAFAYETTE — Seven former Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns student-athletes, a legendary coach in track and field, and the first father-daughter tandem to be inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame make up the 2019 Louisiana Athletics Hall of Fame class, in an announcement on Thursday by the Board of Directors of the Ragin' Cajuns Letterman Club.
Former student-athletes Ivan “Ike” Taylor (football), Stephanie DeFeo (softball), Kathy Morton (softball), Priscilla Lima (volleyball), Jose Alvarez (baseball), the men’s tennis doubles team of Bret Garnett and Ashley Rhoney will enter the Hall of Fame and will be joined by the late Charles Lancon (track and field – administration), along with Leigh Hennessy and her father, the late Jeff Hennessy (lifetime achievement).
The 2019 class will be inducted into the Louisiana Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday, Nov. 1 and will be recognized during halftime of the 2019 Homecoming football game against Texas State on Saturday, Nov. 2 at Cajun Field.
Lancon, a 1959 graduate who coached at Louisiana from 1990-2002, took over a track and field program that had not claimed a conference title since 1970 and quickly created a powerhouse. Under his guidance, the Ragin’ Cajuns claimed 17 conference titles, including three in his second year in 1991.
He led Louisiana to a “Quadruple Crown” in 1993 as the men’s and women’s teams each claimed the SBC outdoor and indoor titles, with his men’s teams winning a combined 11 titles in indoor and outdoor competition. A 14-time Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year recipient, Lancon was named Coach of the Year by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association seven times during a 10-year period.
Lancon coached more than two dozen NCAA All-Americans during his tenure, a NCAA national champion in the men’s triple jump (Ndaba Mdhlongwa), along with 10 current members of the Athletics Hall of Fame.
Taylor, a two-time Super Bowl champion who played his entire 12-year NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, played his final two seasons with the Ragin’ Cajuns first as a running back in 2001 before being moved to defense after asking then first-year head coach Ricky Bustle in 2002.
The move to defensive back paid huge dividends for the New Orleans native, as he recorded 46 tackles on the season with a pair of forced fumbles and eight pass breakups, tying him for team-high honors with another future NFL veteran and member of the Athletics Hall of Fame – Charles “Peanut” Tillman.
Taylor would eventually be selected in the fourth round of the 2003 NFL Draft by Pittsburgh and three years later, would start at cornerback in Super Bowl XL and help lead the Steelers to their fifth championship.
Three years later, Taylor was part of the Steelers’ sixth Super Bowl win where he registered a combined eight tackles in a 27-23 win over Arizona in Super Bowl XLIII. During his NFL career, Taylor played in 175 games and recorded 636 tackles with 14 interceptions.
DeFeo, a member of the Ragin’ Cajuns softball team from 1994-97, went on to earn All-America honors three times, playing first base and designated player. Playing under Hall of Fame coach Yvette Girouard, DeFeo left with a school-record 43 home runs (15 in her senior season of 1997) in an era dominated by pitching, in addition to compiling a .676 slugging percentage and 187 runs batted in.
She earned All-America honors as a freshman in 1994 when she hit .435 on the season and set a school-record in slugging percentage at .739. DeFeo repeated as an All-American the following year in 1995, posting a .409 batting average before earning All-America honors for a third time in 1997.
DeFeo, a .383 hitter for the Ragin’ Cajuns in 230 games and currently the head coach at Mercer University, finished her career as the school-record holder in home runs (43), RBI (187), walks (94) and slugging percentage (.676).
Morton was a two-time All-American in softball for Louisiana, earning first-team honors in both 1994 and 1995. She hit .360 or higher in each of her final three seasons, capped off by back-to-back .400 campaigns, while finishing as the career record-holder in 12 different categories, highlighted by base hits (281), doubles (61), home runs (29) and RBI (176).
She was both a NFCA All-Region selection and All-Louisiana pick each season for the Ragin’ Cajuns from 1992-95 and was named to the All-Tournament team at the 1993 Women’s College World Series.
Morton reached double figures in doubles each year during her Ragin’ Cajuns career and set the single-season record (23) in 1994.
Lima, the second volleyball player in Ragin’ Cajuns history to enter the Hall of Fame, spent four years at Louisiana (1999-2002) and remains in the program record books, ranking in the top five in single-season kills (381), attack attempts (1,006), and points (448.5).
The Rio de Janeiro, Brazil native was a two-time all-conference selection, earning second-team honors in 2000 and first-team honors in 2002. She was also a multi-time Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week and posted at least 200 kills and 200 digs in each of her four seasons on the court. Lima finished her career with 1,228 kills – a number that still ranks in the top-5 in Ragin’ Cajuns history – along with 1,187 digs.
Lima made the transition to playing beach volleyball on a full-time basis in 2004 and has played professionally on the Brazilian Beach Tour, NVL, AVP and FIVB World Tour, as well as being a part of the Brazilian National Beach Team. She has numerous top-5 finishes at professional events in the NVL, AVP and Branco de Brasil Tour, and boasts victories over notable names such as Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor. In 2009, she was named the AVP's Most Improved Player.
Alvarez played baseball for two seasons (1977-78) at Louisiana, leading the Ragin’ Cajuns in both wins and strikeouts, before embarking on a distinguished career in Major League Baseball. He became the first Ragin’ Cajuns pitcher since Ron Guidry to throw a nine-inning, no-hitter when he fanned 10 batters in an 11-0 win over UT Arlington on April 30, 1978 – the first season at what is now M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field at Russo Park.
He earned first-team All-Southland Conference honors and was the league’s Pitcher of the Year in 1978 after earning 10 wins on the mound with 73 strikeouts and a 1.55 earned run average in 99.0 innings of work. Alvarez, who was drafted in the eighth round of the 1978 MLB Draft by the Atlanta Braves, was eventually named to the SLC’s All-Decade Team for the 1970s.
The only All-Americans in the history of Ragin’ Cajuns men’s tennis, Garnett and Rhoney were ranked No. 1 in the nation in 1987 and No. 2 nationally in 1988. The duo were members of the Ragin’ Cajuns nationally-ranked tennis team in 1988 that earned a year-end No. 18 ranking. Playing from 1985-88, Rhoney compiled a 134-80 record with the Cajuns – 71-48 in singles, 63-32 in doubles. Garnett was 65-39 in singles with three straight 20-win seasons (24-11, 20-13, 21-15) playing mainly against the country's best atop the order.
The duo would eventually reach the professional level, where they reached the Round of 16 at three Grand Slam events – US Open, Australian Open and Wimbledon – along with the quarterfinals of the French Open.
Jefferson Hennessy, an Associate Professor of Physical Education at Louisiana from 1959-86, served as the director of the University’s gymnastics and trampoline programs and was the United States trampolining coach from 1964-80.
As coach of the U.S. team, he led his squad to nine world titles between 1964-80 and coached more trampoline and double mini-tramp world and national champions than any other person nationally. His athletes were awarded 26 world championship medals and numerous national and regional titles and medals.
His daughter, Leigh Hennessy, was a five-time National AAU All-American from 1976-80 during her career at Louisiana before becoming a 10-time United States champion and two-time World Champion.
She was inducted into the World Acrobatics Society Hall of Fame in 2005 and the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2007. The Lafayette native has been one of the leading stunt women in movies and television, appearing in such movies as G.I. Jane, where she served as stunt double for Demi Moore, and The Guardian.
The University's Hall of Fame recognizes men and women who distinguished themselves as student-athletes and have made significant contributions to their professions and their communities. They are nominated and selected through a process that is overseen by the board of directors of the Ragin' Cajuns Lettermen Club, an organization of former student-athletes who have lettered in their sport.
In 2015, new eligibility criteria for the Hall of Fame were adopted to allow the nomination of coaches and administrators, as well as alumni whose collegiate careers were shortened by the chance to pursue professional sports.
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