Legends: Pietila-Aho was a versatile athlete
HOUGHTON — The Copper Country has produced many outstanding female athletes over the years.
But Elizabeth Pietila-Aho probably ranked among the most versatile.
The Hancock High product was known for her tenacity on the basketball court–and in other sports–she played at Hancock and later at Michigan Tech University.
Kim Cameron, a former teammate and later a coach at Tech, said Elizabeth was a great competitor.
“She was smart and she was tough,” Cameron said a few years ago. “And she was an unselfish player, who would rather see teammates succeed than herself.”
Pietila-Aho’s athletic ability was noticed early on at Hancock.
Cross country coach and HCHS athletic director Arne Henderson said that she attracted attention right away.
“Elizabeth had that certain something you don’t see often,” Henderson said. “She was athletic, yes. But she was also a natural leader.”
Those attributes led to a four-year career on the basketball court where she led the Bulldogs in scoring, rebounding and assists.
Her coach, Mike Williams, recognized her abilities, which also included track, cross country, swimming and a short stint in skiing.
“She was not only competing, but she was excelling in all those sports,” said Williams, now the women’s basketball coach at Grand Valley State. “That takes a remarkable athlete.”
Pietila, who scored over 1,000 points in her prep career, was named All-U.P. and All-State as a senior. She led her team to the 1997 state finals against a powerful Redford Bishop Borgess squad.
The downstate team concentrated on holding down Pietila and won easily.
“That team we faced in the state finals was way beyond anything we ever faced,” she said later on. “They were big and strong.”
Recruited by MTU coaching legend Kevin Borseth, Elizabeth would go on to have a steady career for the Huskies under new coach Darla Innes.
Innes, who coached her the final three seasons, was complimentary of the Hancock product.
“The thing about Liz is that she always plays a team game,” Innes noted. “She always looks for an open teammate.”
Pietila-Aho, hampered by knee injury later in her career, concluded her collegiate days with 742 points, 367 rebounds and 363 assists.
She later married Steve Aho and the couple has eight children. Not surprisingly, most of the children are involved in sports. Oldest son, Shane, plays football and basketball at HCHS.
Elizabeth stays busy nowadays. She is the assistant varsity basketball coach, JV coach and 8th grade coach at Hancock.
“Coaching is something I always wanted to do. Now, I’m getting the chance.” she said.