Diane Geppi-Aikens, who led the Loyola College women’s lacrosse team to the NCAA semifinals despite an inoperable brain tumor, died Sunday. She was 40.
Geppi-Aikens died at her Baltimore home, surrounded by family members and her four children, said David Rosenthal, a spokesman for Loyola’s athletic department.
Geppi-Aikens coached all but one game of the Greyhounds’ 2003 season from a wheelchair after treatment for the tumor partially paralyzed her left side.
The Baltimore college entered the NCAA tournament as the No. 1 seed with a regular-season record of 17-2 and lost to Princeton in the semifinals.
“I’ve been around her for four years,” senior Christy McNew said before the semifinals, “and it’s the greatest gift to be able to stand next to her and say, ‘That’s my coach.’ ”
Geppi-Aikens was honored with the NCAA Inspiration Award at the organization’s convention in January.
“I’m fortunate to know my situation. I get to say goodbye every day, and that’s a pretty special thing,” she said then.
Geppi-Aikens graduated in 1984 from Loyola, where she was a four-year starter and two-time team captain in lacrosse and volleyball. She was the Greyhounds’ volleyball coach from 1984 to 1990 and became lacrosse coach in 1989.
She led the Greyhounds to the NCAA tournament 10 times and the national semifinals seven times in her 15 seasons.
“Diane’s life is a testament to the ideals of the college that she so proudly represented for more than 20 years,” Loyola College President Harold Ridley said.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete. Geppi-Aikens is survived by her father, two sisters and four children.