TURLOCK -- Maud Clark's task for Turlock High School's girls basketball season was to form a competitive team and hope they wouldn't be trounced in every matchup with local teams. Half of her players had no experience playing basketball and the other half had played just a little. As for coach Clark she had no experience at all.
While the prospects for the 1910 season for the Turlock team looked grim, they were about to embark upon an amazing run.
In September 1906, Turlock High opened its doors for its first class, though its doors actually were those of the town hall since there was no high school building at that time.
There were 22 students and two teachers, S.R. Douglas, who was also the principal, and Maud Clark. She taught all the regular classes and Latin. He taught his classes on the floor of the building while Clark taught them on the stage. They had no desks or even a library, but the teachers taught and the students learned.
For the next academic year, the school moved to its own building on the grounds of the Turlock Covenant Church. For the 1909-10 academic year, a girls basketball team was formed and Clark was coach.
With no idea of how to play or how to coach, the early part of the season saw the team lose a couple of games. According to the San Francisco Call of March 27, 1910, "her team was not even conceded a chance by some other members of the league."
Then a streak began that saw the team rack up one impressive win after another. On Dec. 11, they walloped Merced High, 37-10. After the holiday break came a 20-10 victory Jan. 8 over Stockton High. Two weeks later, they cleaned the court with Ceres, 24-5.
On Feb. 5, they came out the winners in a hard-fought contest with Modesto High, 17-15. A week later, they slipped past Oakdale, 17-13. On March 5, it was a victory over Sonora High, 22-12.
On March 12, it was another battle, this time a narrow victory over Lodi, 20-18. Six days later, they handily won the return match, 20-12.
Most of the credit for the team's success, according to the reporter from The Call, belonged to the coach because "she went quietly ahead drilling the team in the rudiments of the game and working out with it the essentials of team play. At the same time she managed to infuse into the players a fine determined spirit, and as a result turned out a team, which proved itself invincible."
April 2 found the champions of the San Joaquin Valley league in Berkeley preparing to take on the winners of the Alameda league. The next day's Call described Turlock's 29-10 loss to Centerville as "exciting throughout, but Centerville outplayed their opponents at every stage of the contest."
After the next academic year, Clark married fellow Turlock High instructor Frank Glasson and they eventually moved to the coast, where she became a strong advocate for education.
What made Clark's winning of the league and appearance in a tournament semifinal so impressive wasn't just the team and coach's lack of experience, but what the Call reporter described as how the team was "handicapped as their average weight is only 115 pounds, and only one member of the team, the center, is above the ordinary height, the others averaging but 5 feet 2 inches."
Sources: The San Francisco Call, March 27, 1910; April 2, 1910; April 3, 1910; and July 22, 1911.
James McAndrews Jr. is a docent and board member of the Great Valley Museum. Send comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.