WALKER VAN WEY | Reporter
The Lindenwood billiards’ Facebook page read, “Yes, the only team better than the Lindenwood boys was the Lindenwood girls” after this weekend’s University of Michigan Team Championships, but the story was much bigger.
For the first time in collegiate billiards history, a women’s team won a major collegiate event. That team was Lindenwood senior Briana Miller and freshman Taylor Hansen.
“Women have never won this event, and only a very few have competed in the past,” coach Mark Wilson said.
The fact that women have won an event in a sport that is more strategy than physical ability may not impress initially. But not long ago, the billiards community and the historic building the University of Michigan Team Championships was played in suppressed the idea altogether.
“Women were not even allowed into the pool room until 1969 as a part of the feminist movement from that era,” Wilson said.
Hanson said that she knew the women were walking in as favorites to win and delivered a message in her performance that no words effectively could have.
“Most billiard players underestimate the skill level of women players,” Hansen said. “We should not be considered weaker players just because of our gender. Playing in a male-dominated sport makes me work twice as hard so I have the chance to prove everyone wrong. Skill isn’t about gender; it’s about the amount of dedication you put into the sport.”
Reflecting the disdain for gender expectations in billiards is teammate Landon Shuffett who has always distanced himself from that stereotype.
“That’s never been valid in my mind,” Shuffett said. “There are women players that give some of the men fits.”
The accomplishment doesn’t stand as a feat of skill alone for Miller and Hansen, but in Hanson’s eyes it can serve as a door that has now swung wide open for all women interested in the sport itself.
“The gender ground we broke means more to me because it can benefit the sport as a whole in the future,” Hansen said. “Showing other girls the endless possibilities we have in the sport will help to inspire other women to play and put in the effort to improve their games.”
Although it’s hard to tell right now whether the victory impacted any aspiring youth, the victory did hit home for other women on the team who cheered on their teammates from afar.
“Taylor and Briana are amazing, and I wish I could’ve been there to see their win,” said freshman teammate Madison Bond. “When we win events like that, especially with the girls getting first. It makes me proud to be a part of the team.”
Coach Wilson said that a women’s victory is more than just an opportunity to change the face of collegiate billiards, but a potential offer for a facelift of the sport altogether.
“Women represent the greatest untapped market for our sport and come without any stigma or preconceived image, which is a refreshing departure from the inevitable statement that always follows someone learning that you are a pool player, ‘so are you a shark or hustler?’ Lindenwood billiards has set about changing this very tired background attached to such a regal sport.”
Whether Miller and Hansen have made a lasting impact remains to be seen; however, as soon as the final ball was sunk, no collegiate billiards player can ever use the phrase “good for a girl.”
That chapter has ended.