Liz Praetorius was among the first wave of girls at Saugerties High School to have the chance to compete in three different sports: volleyball, basketball and softball. Praetorius excelled in all three, but her posthumous induction into the Saugerties Sports Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2018 this month is about much more.
“We take it for granted today, but she was really the first generation of girls to play three sports,” said Liz’s brother Roger, himself a member of the Hall of Fame. “She was a single gal, career gal, but volleyball was her passion.”
The passage of Title IX in 1972 gave high school girls opportunities to compete on par with the boys, and within three decades the numbers skyrocketed from nearly 300,000 to ten times as many. Praetorius, born in 1965, was an early convert to sports, playing first base for the Elkies in the fledgling Saugerties Little League softball program at the age of ten. With four older brothers, Liz Praetorius had a lot to look up to and to live up to.
“She always wanted to compete,” said Roger Praetorius. “She wanted to be a better student, a better athlete than the boys.”
Roger Praetorius would go on to play football at Syracuse University. He remembered his sister coming to games and making an impression on his college teammates. “I was playing in Syracuse, and she’d be up there with my mother,” he said. “Friends of mine remember meeting her at seven, eight years old.”
Player, coach and administrator
Liz Praetorius was a three-year starter under Hall of Fame varsity volleyball coach Andrea “Miss U” Ungvarsky, earning all-league honors as a hitter in her senior season, a year that marked a decade of volleyball at Saugerties High.
Praetorius was also a three-year starter for the girls’ varsity basketball team, a low-post threat as a center-forward. In 1983, the Lady Sawyers went 12-7 overall, and 10-6 in league play, a remarkable turnaround after a 1-15 campaign just one year earlier.
Praetorius also started three years on varsity softball, where she played first base on two league championship teams. The team’s best season during her time on the Sawyers was in 1982, when it went 18-3 overall and 14-1 in league play, winning the program’s first-ever Mid-Hudson Athletic League title against Rondout Valley.
Praetorius continued her volleyball career at SUNY Albany, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in business. She later earned her master’s degree in public administration with a focus on finance at Rockefeller College at SUNY Albany.
After college, Praetorius’s association with volleyball continued. She was a player and coach with USA Volleyball between 1993 and 2003. She also served as its secretary from 1994 to 1999 and its vice president from 1999 to 2001.
She picked up coaching again at SUNY Maritime, where she took over a women’s team that had gone 0-21 in 2009. She helped steer the team to six wins in her first season at the helm.
A lot of giving back
Praetorius was also chief operating officer and vice-president for finance and administration at SUNY Maritime, where she served from 2010 to 2014. She was director for finance and administration at the University at Albany’s Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government for nearly two decades, and after her time at SUNY Maritime was the vice-president for finance and administration at SUNY Fredonia. She was also on the board of directors for the Albany YMCA from 1994 to 2004, including five years as its finance chair.
Praetorius, who passed away on February 4, 2016, will be honored by family and friends at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Saturday, April 14.
“In her adult life there was a lot of coaching and giving back to students, and I think she’d be proud,” said Roger Praetorius. “And I would hope that she’d be proud of the women that are in the Hall of Fame already. I’m not saying she’s a hero. I’m saying she’d be happy that for her generation and those that followed, they had opportunities that girls didn’t before.”
Liz Praetorius’s senior quote in the 1983 Saugerties High School yearbook read, “When special friends part for new horizons, the understanding and memories shared between you will last forever.”
The 54th annual Saugerties Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony and dinner will be held on Saturday, April 14 at Diamond Mills, with doors opening at 5 p.m., and a cocktail and meet-and-greet hour from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. The ceremony will begin immediately after. Tickets, which include some drinks and dinner, are $30 and can be reserved by e-mailing Mike Hasenbalg or calling 914-388-2348.