Joyce made her mark on program
Note: This is the fifth in a series of profiles of 2019 Saint Francis University Hall of Fame inductees. The induction ceremony is scheduled for July 26:
LORETTO — Former Saint Francis women’s basketball coach Jenny Przekwas knew Colleen Joyce was special from the first moment she saw her on the recruiting trail.
One of her first recruits, Prezekwas was initially unsure if she’d be able to lure the talent from Penn Hills High School to Loretto.
“C.J. was one of the first players I recruited after I was hired, and I didn’t think we could get her,” Prezekwas said. “She was such a special talent. I thought more high-major schools would be on her. It wasn’t until her coach told me that she was looking for a small-school atmosphere that I thought we might have a shot.”
Joyce committed to Saint Francis and instantly teamed with classmate Stacy Alexander, the 1994-95 NEC Player of the Year, to raise the profile of Saint Francis women’s basketball.
Joyce wasted no time in asserting her dominance. She scored 38 points on 15 made field goals as a freshman vs. Marshall (both school records at the time) and went on to win Northeast Conference Rookie of the Year.
Joyce went on to lead Saint Francis in scoring in 1993-94, making the first of three all-conference teams.
All the while, Joyce, Alexander and the rest of her teammates were building something special. The team won eight games during her freshman year, 15 as a sophomore and 19 as a junior
Still, it wasn’t smooth sailing. As the team improved, so did the expectations.
Saint Francis made its first NEC Championship game in 1994, Joyce’s second season in Loretto. Saint Francis fell at top-seeded Mount St. Mary’s, 78-67.
Then came Joyce’s junior year. She battled through a stress fracture in her foot to lead Saint Francis back to the NEC title game. Again, Saint Francis had to face the top-seeded Mountaineers in enemy territory. Again, the Flash returned to Loretto heartbroken.
“CJ was always so professional in her approach to the game,” Przekwas said. “There was never any drama with her. She would come in, do her job and make her teammates better.”
Nonetheless, Przekwas could tell Joyce’s motivation was at an all-time high entering her senior season.
“She wanted to get us over the hump while she was here,” Przekwas said.
Joyce’s final season started with a bang. Saint Francis hosted Penn State on Nov. 27, 1995. It was a Penn State team that would go on to win the Big Ten Tournament, advance to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 and finish the season ranked No. 8 in the AP Poll.
However, Joyce was the one who left the big impression on the night.
She went 14-of-18 from the field, 5-of-7 from 3-point range and scored 33 points without attempting a free throw as Saint Francis fell, 92-82.
“CJ was a terrific player,” said Alexander, Joyce’s closest friend and backcourt mate. “She was 6-foot and could shoot, and she played with great poise and confidence. She could score on anyone, anytime she wanted, and on that night she got in a groove.”
Then came the NEC championship; for the third year in a row, Saint Francis had to travel to Mount St. Mary’s.
“We were so much better prepared,” Przekwas said. “The focus and preparation leading up to the game was so much better. I had a really good feeling that our group wasn’t going to lose three championships in a row to the same team in the same building.”
Joyce made sure of that. With the game in the balance and Saint Francis holding a five-point lead with 2:30 to play, Prezekwas called Joyce over to the bench and delivered a firm message.
“I told her to go score,” Przekwas said. “CJ was our leading scorer. She was who we turned to when the game was on the line.”
Joyce converted a three-point play then followed with another field goal in consecutive trips, and Saint Francis clinched its first-ever NEC title with an 83-75 win.
Saint Francis went on to capture eight of the next nine NEC championships and currently leads the NEC with 12 total championships.
“CJ’s winning attitude and leadership qualities were a huge asset to our team,” Przekwas said. “She was always so calm and never got flustered. She was an integral part of our first NEC championship and established Saint Francis women’s basketball’s decade of success.”
Taylor Powers works for Saint Francis University.