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Bunny Daugherty, Donna Moir & the spirit of Sacred Heart

February 26, 2018 FieldsColumn

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Bunny Daugherty coached Sacred Heart teams to 13 state titles.

BY MIKE FIELDS

LOUISVILLE – A trailblazer and advocate for girls’ high school sports. Decades of dedication as an athletic director and coach. More than a dozen state championships to her credit. KHSAA Hall of Famer.

Bunny Daugherty’s legacy at Sacred Heart Academy endures strongly to this day, 20 years after she passed away on February 26, 1998.

“With her love of sports, she made a connection with everybody,” said Donna Moir, the Valkyries’ current basketball coach and AD.

Daugherty, whose motto was “Kids + Sports = Fun”, coached just about everything at Sacred Heart and she guided teams to 13 state titles — golf (5), tennis (5), field hockey (2), basketball (1).

Intent on creating opportunities for young female athletes, Daugherty was instrumental in starting the girls’ Louisville Invitational Tournament in basketball and the Apple Invitational Tournament in field hockey almost 50 years ago.

The Courier-Journal called her the Susan B. Anthony of girls’ high school sports in Kentucky.

“She was always really encouraging, getting kids to do stuff they normally wouldn’t do,” Moir said. “I don’t think she ever said a bad word about anybody.”

Donna Moir, who played on Sacred Heart’s 1976 title team, coached the Valkyries to 3 straight state championships (2002-04).

Moir, who played on Daugherty’s 1976 state basketball title team and later coached alongside her, would never compare herself to her mentor.

She’d blanch at the thought.

But Moir embodies Daugherty’s passion for girls’ athletics by authoring her own indelible work at Sacred Heart.

When Sister Maureen Field introduced Moir as the school’s AD and coach in 1991, she was optimistic about the school’s future in sports: “Donna can be the catalyst in taking our athletic department to where it was years ago,” Sr. Field said.

Sacred Heart has exceeded those lofty goals by winning nearly 50 state titles in Moir’s 27 years as AD, including 16 championships in swimming, seven in golf, seven in cross country, five in soccer and four in tennis.

The Valkyries, led by the dynamic duo of Crystal Kelly and Carly Ormerod, captured three consecutive state basketball titles (2002-04) under Moir, posting back-to-back-to-back 37-1 seasons.

Moir, who notched her 600th career win at Sacred Heart earlier this year, has guided the Valkyries to the No. 1 ranking heading into this postseason.

Moir credits her parents, Bob and Norma Bender, for her work ethic and competitiveness. Bob Bender was a football standout at the University of Louisville and is in the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. He was a teammate and close friend of legendary quarterback Johnny Unitas. (Bob and Johnny were in each other’s weddings, and Unitas was Donna’s godfather.)

Norma (Gerwing) Bender, played softball at Mercy.

Donna first met Daugherty when she enrolled as a freshman at Sacred Heart, and was embarrassed when her mom flatly told the coach that her daughter was going to play basketball for her. 

“On the ride home I told my mom, ‘I can’t believe you said that!’,” Moir recalled.

Donna did play for Daugherty and earned playing time as a freshman on the 1976 Sweet Sixteen title team. She also played golf for Daugherty.

After graduating from Sacred Heart she played both sports at the University of Cincinnati. (Moir was in Coach Ceal Barry’s first recruiting class at UC. Barry, who played at UK, will be inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame this year.) 

After taking a swing at a professional golf career, Moir returned to Sacred Heart in 1988 to coach softball and also assist Daugherty in basketball. Three years later, she took over as basketball coach and AD.

The family ties to the Valkyries are strong, too. Donna and Rick Moir’s three daughters (Meredith, Megan and Mackenzie) played sports and graduated from Sacred Heart.

Their son Michael has a Valkyries’ connection, too. He married Elizabeth Campbell, who played basketball for Moir at Sacred Heart.

Moir’s sister-in-law, Leslie Bender, coached the Valkyries to six state golf titles in the last seven years. Ryan Bender, Moir’s niece, was the individual state golf champ last fall.

As AD, Moir said she tries to emulate Daugherty by being invested in all Sacred Heart sports, “and by trying to give all the teams all the tools they need to succeed, and by trying to get to know as many of the kids as I can.

“I think that’s important.”

That’s the Sacred Heart spirit championed by Bunny Daugherty.

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