Jan. 23, 2013
By Mike Sheridan
Villanova Media Relations
It is a brisk Monday morning in January on what is officially an off day for Trish Juhline, registered nurse. Rather than report to work at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Juhline instead makes the drive down Lancaster Avenue from her home in Ardmore to visit a place she is oh so familiar with.
The past, you see, is calling again.
Though that kind of clarion call can be foreboding in the lives of some, it is a joyful diversion for Juhline. For it takes her back to a legendary career at Villanova that she often sums up succinctly.
"It was," she says of the years 1999-2003, "so much fun."
Juhline's stint as a Villanova Wildcat guard, which included a pair of first team All-BIG EAST selections, included 1,659 points (third all-time in program history) and culminated in a BIG EAST championship and run to the Elite Eight in her senior season of 2002-03, will be celebrated in a large way this month. On Jan. 25, Juhline will be inducted into the Philadelphia Big Five Hall of Fame in a ceremony at the Palestra. One day later, her Villanova jersey will be raised to the rafters of the Pavilion in a ceremony during the Wildcats' game with Syracuse. Villanova will also celebrate the 10th anniversary of its 2003 BIG EAST championship team at halftime of the men's game that morning at the Wells Fargo Center as well as at the Pavilion that night.
The news of the jersey retirement, delivered by director of athletics Vince Nicastro last fall, caught the product of Havertown, Pa., entirely off guard.
"When Vince called me, I felt like I won the lottery," she says now. "I was flipping out because it was so fun. It's not something that I had expected at all at any point. I'm just so pleasantly surprised."
Juhline's journey to these dual honors traces back to her childhood in nearby Havertown, Pa. She attended her first Villanova basketball camp as a third grader and returned every summer through eighth grade. It was there that she first came to known Wildcats women coach Harry Perretta.
"I loved Harry," she says now. "I thought he was so funny and so cool."
During the basketball season, her father took Juhline to Villanova women's games, where the grade schooler paid close attention to guard Michelle Thornton.
"Michelle was from my town and I was obsessed with her," she recalls. "When I would play in my backyard, in my head it was the two of us in the backcourt. I wore a Villanova jersey pretty much everywhere for five years - I was obsessed."
It wasn't long before Juhline established herself as one of the area's top players during a decorated career at nearby Cardinal O'Hara High School in the late 1990's. When it came time to select a college, Juhline gave brief consideration to Penn State but never really drifted away from the notion that Villanova was the place she wanted to spend four years.
"I'm such a homebody that this was the perfect fit for me," Juhline states. "It was close. I knew that I loved Harry. It's such a good academic school and I was already its No. 1 fan."
So convinced was she of her decision, that she gave Perretta what was then a very early commitment, prior to the start of her senior season at Cardinal O'Hara. It seemed part of a natural progression then and still does a decade and a half later.
Most freshmen endure a transition when arriving at the college level, especially when confronted with an intricate offensive system like the one favored at Villanova. Yet Juhline's transition was mostly seamless as she was named Philadelphia Big Five Rookie of the Year in 1999-00. However, she does remember a welcome to college basketball moment in the season opener that year against Penn State.
"It felt like everyone was going 100 miles per hour," Juhline states. "It was all moving so fast. Then, you learn as you go and see the speed. We were always well-prepared, so that helped.
"We had a lot of injuries that year so I kind of had to play. It was good in a way because you learned a lot quickly but it was tough too at times because if you weren't playing well, there weren't a lot of other options. I do think the trial by fire helped in the long run."
The results of the next three seasons suggest it did. Sparked by a core that included Juhline, classmates Katie Davis and Nicole Druckenmiller along with Courtney Mix, who was one year behind that group, Villanova reached the 2002 NCAA Tournament and won a game before being eliminated. That set the stage for 2003 and the month of March that still resonates on the Main Line a decade later.
Connecticut was the dominant story, not just in the BIG EAST, but throughout the sport. The Huskies brought a 70-game winning streak with them to the RAC for what was expected to be another step forward. Villanova, meanwhile, had enjoyed a terrific campaign and was secure in the knowledge that they would be included in the 2003 NCAA Tournament field after reaching the BIG EAST Final.
Upending the Huskies, though, was another matter entirely.
"I actually didn't think we were going to win that night until the game was over," Juhline states. "Harry did such a good job of not putting any pressure on us to do anything we weren't capable of. Once that pressure is off, it's like, `I can only do so much.' Then, everything else takes care of itself. We were always well-prepared and it was just a matter of execution. Sometimes you make shots and sometimes you don't.
"We stayed composed and made plays down the stretch. It's something that is awesome and special but would never have happened if we didn't have Harry's mindset."
That win is just another way Juhline is occasionally pulled back to the past in 2013.
"People who know sports will bring it up to me," she says. "It's so fun to talk about - every time I think back to it I get giddy."
While the public's mind tends to drift back to specific games, for Juhline the memories go much further. In fact, a large part of the cherished memories come from times spent together away from the floor.
"We have some amazing memories from those games," she says, "but what I think about most often is the fun we had on the trips, on the bus rides, and on campus."
In fact, Juhline views the upcoming honors more as a tribute to that era of Villanova Basketball than a celebration of her career. VU was 85-41 over her four seasons in uniform.
"That's why it was so shocking to me," she says. "I don't feel that my career is very much different than the people that were around me when it was happening. We had a great group of people and that's why this is so special - everyone is part of this."
Today Juhline's life is far removed from the spotlight. Following graduation, she was drafted by the Washington Mystics of the WNBA but elected to pursue a career in nursing. These days she works in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania with infants born prematurely.
"When I was considering what career I wanted to pursue I felt like I wanted to be challenged and to feel like I was helping people," she says. "Now, that I'm in the (Neo-Natal Care) unit I feel like I work with the most fragile patient population that there is. I get to interact with parents at such a vulnerable time and really, genuinely make a difference.
"Going to work and having a sense of purpose is what I was looking for in a career. This is the perfect fit for me. I absolutely adore those babies so much. It's so easy to become friendly with parents when you feel like you are helping with their babies' care."
Save for the occasional pick-up game, basketball is essentially a fond and distant memory for Trish Juhline. Yet when the moments arrive seeking to transport her to her past, she is only too willing to embrace the journey.
"I can't describe how much fun it was," she states.
That she is receiving two lifetime achievement sorts of accolades in just her third decade troubles her not. This is a celebration of a special time and it will be shared with family, friends, and a campus community that recalls quite vividly her substantial contributions to Villanova.