Her reputation as a big-time athlete in the Philadelphia area was without question.
In fact, Mary Ellen Boylan Jutca’s parents found out just how popular their daughter, a fascinating and diverse athlete at Villanova University in the 1970s really was one night while attempting to park their vehicle on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania to watch their daughter play basketball.
As Jim Boylan, who attended Penn after the war, stopped the vehicle and sought entrance to the lot, he was stopped by an attendant.
“The guard wasn’t going to let dad park on campus,” recalled Jutca. “But when (my dad) told (the attendant) he came to watch his daughter, the guard asked who his daughter was.”
Jim Boylan proudly exclaimed: “Mary Ellen Boylan.”
The guard responded: “Oh, No. 10. Please go right in. I follow her statistics in the paper.”
“I guess I was famous that night,” Jutca chuckled. “That was so cool.”
And so it was that type of name recognition and reputation
Jutca, a Washington resident, Immaculate Conception High School graduate (1972), and longtime teacher at Trinity Area School District, earned and established at Villanova while leading the basketball team and starring in tennis.
The Philadelphia Inquirer once dubbed her “possibly the best college athlete in Philadelphia, regardless of sex.”
Jutca was the first female athlete selected for the Villanova Varsity Club Hall of Fame.
In 1976, “The Spires,” the journal of information about Villanova University for alumni, stated she was, “Cut right out of the mold of the late Babe Didrikson.
“(She) easily (was) the most outstanding female athlete ever to attend Villanova, she has mixed rare athletic talents with a fierce competitive sprit. Aesthetically, Athletically and Academically she has few equals.”
She is a member of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, Washington-Greene County Chapter.
“I got to Villanova in the fall of 1972,” Jutca said. “They had great players. I knew this was a whole different ball game. I had no idea of my talent. But I made the team.
“Our first season, we played with six girls on the floor – a rover. I was the rover. I did all of the running. I was 5-feet, 5-inches and ended up starting for Villanova. I still wasn’t aware of my talent.”
Jutca graduated from Villanova in 1976 with a bachelor of science degree in Nursing.
She moved with her family to East Washington in 1957 with her father and mother, Dorothy, from Philadelphia, when she was 3-years old.
As a high school player, she forged a reputation for the Immaculate Conception Comets. After asking the parish to start a girl’s basketball program, Jutca became an outstanding talent on the court.
She was team captain, and the greater Washington area girl’s scoring leader in the 1970-1971 and 1971-1972 seasons, averaging 28 points per game. She set a Washington area single-game scoring record, male or female, by scoring 53 points in the 1970-1971 season.
“We went to the rectory and asked if we could have a girl’s basketball team,” Jutca said. “A lot of people became involved and we were on a roll from there. We played five-on-five — never played with a rover in high school. We did quite well. We had a good team my last three years there and the boosters really came through for us. They fundraised for everything.”
In Jutca’s four-year basketball career with the Lady Wildcats, she scored 974 points, and owns the Villanova sophomore class record for points per game in a season at 19.1. She led the team in scoring all four seasons and was a member of Philadelphia’s Big Five All-Star first team and the Big Five’s Most Valuable Player.
She established school records in foul shooting, with a career 85 percent average. She was named Villanova’s Outstanding Senior Athlete.
In addition to her basketball skills and achievements, Jutca won 48 of 51 tennis matches in her collegiate career.
She played No. 1 singles and was captain of Villanova’s tennis team as a junior and senior and reached the quarterfinals of the Eastern Nationals.
“My freshman and sophomore years turned out pretty well,” she said. “That was pre Title IX. That only meant I wasn’t getting paid (scholarship). We played a great schedule, teams like Princeton, Fordham and others. We traveled but not like they do today.”
Once Title IX took hold, she received some scholarship offers from St. Joseph’s and LaSalle. Jutca was in the Villanova nursing program at the time and there was “no way I was leaving,” she said.
She relished her time at Villanova and the opportunity to play in Jake Nevin Field House – named for the legendary trainer – on campus and in the Philadelphia Big 5 – LaSalle, Penn, St. Joseph’s, Temple, and Villanova.
“I loved the Jake Nevin Field House,” she said. “It was a thrill to play there. (Nevin) is an icon.
“I spent my summer in St. Mary’s gym (on campus). Conditioning is different now. But I was a swimmer and my day consisted of the dining hall, the gym and the swimming pool. I never lifted a weight.”
But she certainly was strong on the tennis court.
“I’d take buckets of balls out and serve, serve and serve,” she remembered. “I hit them against a wall. I played a lot of tournaments in South (New) Jersey. I taught myself how to play tennis. I never took a lesson.”
But she has given a few — to opponents and to student-athletes at Washington & Jefferson College and Trinity.
Jutca coached at W&J and led the women’s team to its first Penn Woods Conference championship. She previously served as the Hillers’ boys team coach and presently is the assistant to Lane Stoner for both the girls and boys teams at Trinity.
She earned a bachelor of arts degree in sociology and teaching certification (social studies) at W&J.
She and her husband, Alan, make their home in Washington. The couple have four children, Meghan, Steven, Alex and Eric, and two grandchildren.
This will be her final year of teaching – where she has instructed for 23-plus years, focusing now on honors world history and European history to seniors.
She plans to return to the tennis court after retiring.
“I never have stopped running everyday,” she said. “I’m doing something physical or taking physical therapy to strengthen my shoulder.
“When you do something out of passion and determination, good things will happen.”
The Villanova star and Lane Stoner, long-time teacher and tennis coach at Trinity, have been doubles partners through the years. He understands the intensity and passion Jutca has for the sport.
“She is out to win,” Stoner said. “That’s how the plays. On the court, she is very consistent and savvy. She’ll make a shot to set up her partner and put him or her in the best position. Mary Ellen is always thinking one step ahead or one shot ahead.
“Off the court, she is very passionate about what she teaches. She also takes what she is teaching and puts it into real life situations for her students. As a coach, she’s adaptable. But she expects the best effort out of every one of her players. She wants them to do the best they can do and be the best they can be.”