Cody Milardo is a senior at UConn and has been on the men's and women's track beat for the past two years for the student newspaper, The Daily Campus.
STORRS, Conn -- Experiencing a national championship as a student is a rare occurrence, no matter what university you attend. As a senior at the University of Connecticut, my classmates and I have been privileged to already go through a successful national championship run of the women’s basketball team a year ago, and campus is abuzz about the prospects of an undefeated season capped by a second consecutive championship.
“I have been a UConn fan my entire life,” senior bio-chemistry major Ashley Tran said. “Both of my parents went to UConn and my older brother went to UConn, too. So I guess I have UConn in my blood. We are used to success with the women’s team and Geno [Auriemma] is amazing, but the joy of winning a championship never gets old. It’s such a thrill every year.”
Hundreds of students joined Tran in the Student Union theater on campus Sunday night to watch the Huskies top Stanford 75-56 in the national semifinal, and they were not disappointed.
Familiar chants of “Let’s go Huskies!” and “U-C-O-N-N, UConn, UConn, UConn!” filled the small confines of the theater. As if they were actually in Nashville attending the game, students raised their hands during free throws and stood while clapping until the first basket of each half, which have always been Husky traditions.
When UConn trailed for a large portion of the first half, the crowd was getting a bit anxious, but when the Huskies went on their run at the end of the half, as they so often do, the energy as well as the decibel level picked up.
“Even though we were down, I never had any doubts about the outcome of the game,” junior Christine Butler said following the win. “Some people were starting to get nervous, but I have been to almost every home game for the women this year and I know how great they are. We are undefeated for a reason.”
Now the Huskies head to the ultimate game of the season against the Irish of Notre Dame. The excitement about a tilt against our old rival for the national championship has been talked about at Storrs since the bracket was released 20 days ago, and now it is finally a reality. The past few seasons have all included Notre Dame-UConn dogfights, and Tuesday night figures to be no exception with physical, hard-nosed play. That game will be shown on big-screen projectors in Gampel Pavilion, UConn’s on-campus arena, which is a much larger venue than the Student Union theater. Thousands of students are expected to attend, just as they will Monday night for the men’s championship game.
After leading the loudest UConn chant of the night, freshman Kerry Matteson expressed his emotions following the game.
“It just had to be Notre Dame; there couldn’t be a more fitting team to face with the championship on the line,” Matteson said. “We have a history with each other that’s just as bitter as the rivalry we used to have with Tennessee. Being a freshman, it’s just such an incredible experience to have both the men’s and women’s team in the championship game in the same year.”
I’d say Matteson summed up most students’ feelings pretty well. It’s UConn vs. Notre Dame for the national championship in a game where one team will get its first and only loss of the season, while the other will be crowned champions to top off an undefeated season. It sure will be fun.