UCLA Athletics continues its celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Title IX with a series of profiles of UCLA's Title IX 40. This group of 40 Bruin women were game-changers in the Title IX era. Next up are Olympic gold medalists and two-time NCAA champions Natalie Williams and Lisa Fernandez.
Natalie Williams, Volleyball (1989-92), Basketball (1991-94)
One of the finest two-sport standouts in history, Natalie Williams was the first collegiate woman ever to earn All-America honors in both volleyball and basketball in the same year.
Williams was named the UCLA Female Athlete of the Year in 1990-91 and 1991-92 (co-recipient) and was honored as the Pac-10 Female Athlete of the Decade (1987-96). She has been recognized as one of the 15 Greatest UCLA Women's Basketball Players and one of the 25 Greatest UCLA Women's Volleyball Players.
In volleyball, Williams helped lead the Bruins to two consecutive NCAA Championships in 1990 and 1991 and was named the NCAA Tournament MVP both years. She won the Honda Award in volleyball twice (1991-92 and 1992-93) and was the AVCA National Player of the Year in 1992. The four-time All-American and two-time Pac-10 Player of the Year is among the school's all-time leaders in kills (2,115), total attacks (4,263) and hitting percentage (.335). Williams was also a member of the USA Indoor National team in 1990-91 and from 1993-96.
Williams earned All-America honors in basketball in in both her junior and senior seasons and was a finalist both of those years for the Naismith Award. In 1994, she earned the Victor Award as the College Player of the Year. During her four seasons, she averaged a career double-double (20.4 points/12.8 rebounds), and her rebound average (12.8) is the highest in Pac-10 women's basketball history. Williams was a three-time first-team All-Pac-10 honoree and the 1994 Pac-10 Player of the Year.
During her senior season in 1993-94, she tied the school record with 25 rebounds vs. Arizona State, and four days later scored 43 points in a game at California, the second-highest point total in school history. She also set the school mark for most career double-doubles (68), season rebound average (1991-92, 13.8rpg) and career rebound average (12.8rpg). Her career points (1,813) and rebounds (1,137) are in the school's all-time top 5.
Williams' numbers could have been even gaudier had she not suffered a season-ending knee injury prior to the end of her senior season. She recovered from her injury, however, and went on to become a nine-year professional basketball player, ending her career as one of the leading scorers and rebounders in U.S. women's professional basketball history. Williams began her pro career in the ABL in 1997 and was the 1998 ABL MVP. After the ABL folded, she joined the WNBA and was selected by her hometown Utah Starzz as the third pick in the WNBA draft.
In WNBA history, Williams is the fourth-leading rebounder (8.3rpg), and she averaged 13.1 points per game with Utah (1999-2002) and Indiana (2003-2005). She was a three-time All-WNBA first-team selection and an All-Star selection from 1999-2001.
Playing for USA Basketball, Williams helped lead the U.S. squad to a gold medal at the 2000 Olympic Games. She also won gold medals with the U.S. team at the 1998 and 2002 World Championships and was named the USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year in 1999. Williams was inducted into the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame in 2004.
Lisa Fernandez, Softball (1990-93)
The greatest pitcher in the history of the sport of softball, Lisa Fernandez led UCLA to two NCAA Championships in 1990 and 1992 and helped lead Team USA to three Olympic gold medals in 1996, 2000 and 2004.
Fernandez played at UCLA from 1990-93 and was a three-time winner of the sport's Honda Award and in 1993 became the first softball player ever to win the Honda-Broderick Cup, awarded to the most outstanding collegiate female athlete in all sports. A four-time first-team All-American, Fernandez led the Bruins to two national championships (1990 & 1992) and two second-place finishes (1991 & 1993). She was also All-Region and All-Pac-10 first-team each season and Pac-10 Player of the Year during her final three years.
With a miniscule 0.22 earned run average, Fernandez went 93-7 in her career with 784 strikeouts. Her ERA ranks second in NCAA history, and her 74 shutouts are tops at UCLA and ninth in the NCAA annals. In her junior and senior seasons, Fernandez had the lowest ERA in the nation (0.14 in 1992, 0.25 in 1993), and she sported a perfect 29-0 mark in 1992. She tossed 11 career no-hitters, including a pair in the 1993 College World Series, along with two perfect games. She ranks second in UCLA history in ERA and fourth in wins and shutouts.
Fernandez was just as powerful at the plate, batting .382 with 15 home runs and 128 runs batted in. She hit .401 in her junior season but eclipsed that mark by more than 100 points in her senior campaign, batting an NCAA-best .510 with 11 homers and 45 RBI. Fernandez ranks in the UCLA Top 10 in numerous offensive categories, including sixth in average and fourth in hits.
Playing for Team USA, Fernandez was a three-time Olympic Gold Medalist, having led the U.S. to gold in the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games. In 1996, Fernandez shined in the United States' 3-1 gold-medal victory over China, recording the final three outs to earn a save. She went 1-1 with a 0.33 ERA in softball's inaugural appearance in the Olympics in Atlanta. At the 2000 Sydney Games, Fernandez pitched the U.S. to victory in both the semifinal win over Australia and the gold-medal game against Japan. She established an Olympic single-game strikeout record with 25 in a round-robin game against Australia and posted a 0.47 earned run average and 52 strikeouts. In 2004 at Athens, Greece, Fernandez was Team USA's top hitter and pitcher, posting a .545 batting average (12-for-22), which set a new record for an Olympic tournament. For the third-consecutive Olympics, she was also in the circle for the final out of the gold-medal contest, a 5-1 victory over Australia.
A Bruin assistant coach, Fernandez is beginning her 15th season on the UCLA coaching staff. With Fernandez on staff in 14 previous seasons, the Bruins posted a 649-178-1 (.784) record and claimed four NCAA Championships in 1999, 2003, 2004 and 2010. UCLA also won Pac-10 titles in 1999, 2002 and 2009. The program has been honored as the NFCA National Coaching Staff of the Year twice in 2004 and 2010, and Fernandez has coached seven Bruin hurlers to 13 All-American awards.
In 2003, Fernandez became the eighth Bruin softball player to be inducted into the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame, and this summer, she was enshrined into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.
Previous Title IX 40 Profiles
Karen Moe/Janet Coles
Terry Condon/Jan Palchikoff
Sue Enquist/Ann Meyers Drysdale
Evelyn Ashford/Anita Ortega
Carol Bower/Denise Corlett
Denise Curry/Sharon Shapiro
Jackie Joyner-Kersee/Dot Richardson
Florence Griffith-Joyner/Liz Masakayan
Kay Cockerill/Gail Devers
Kim Hamilton Anthony, Stella Sampras Webster