(Host) The University of Vermont women’s basketball team finished its season yesterday, losing to number one in the nation Connecticut in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
The score was 104 to 65.
As VPR’s Steve Zind reports, despite the loss, a good time was had by all: UVM players and fans alike.
(Cheerleaders) "Rough ‘em up, rough ‘em up. Go Cats go!"
(Zind) The Vermont fans came by car and they came by bus, and none of them harbored the illusion that this would be a nail-biting, edge of you seat game – although some like UVM engineering professor Curt Austin and his wife Joyce, were hoping for something close.
(Curt Austin) "If Vermont gives them a run for their money, that’s what I’m here for."
(Joyce Austin) "Me too, me too."
(Zind) Most, like Ricki and Jan Maltby from Milton were content to be here to lend moral support and express their appreciation for a successful season and the Lady Cat’s first trip to the NCAA tournament in nine years.
(Ricki Maltby) "Whether they win or lose, it doesn’t matter."
(Jan Maltby) "We’ll be happy. There’s probably 300 plus other division schools that wish they were here and we are!"
(Zind) Vermont basketball is played in a gym. Connecticut basketball is played in a pavilion: A big domed building hung with national championship banners.
It didn’t matter how many green clad Vermont fans entered the area, they seemed to disappear in a sea of UConn. blue.
At one end of the pavilion, way up high sits a threesome from Vermont. The green plastic wigs they’re wearing are dead giveaways. Jane Vizvarie and husband Ed are here with their friend:
(Smitty) "Smitty, from Grand Isle."
(Zind) Who’s dabbed on a little face paint on. Jane says today’s game is a celebration regardless of the outcome.
(Jane Vizvarie) "There really is no way that I’ll go home unhappy. I’m just really pleased they get to play in this environment."
(PA announcer) "Today’s first game features the University of Vermont Catamounts (cheering), versus the University of Connecticut Huskies." (loud roar)
(Zind) Courtside, just before the game begins, a radio play by play announcer lays it out for his listeners.
(announcer) "In all honesty, the Catamounts trying to pull off one of the greatest upsets in the history of college basketball…."
(Zind) And on that sobering note, the game begins.
(tip off whistle)
(Zind) At this moment most of the UVM fans are probably entertaining the notion that maybe, just maybe the Catamounts call pull off that big upset. But those ideas evaporate quickly.
The first half is tough. But UVM loosened up after the break and some shots started falling.
(PA announcer) "Courtney Pilypaitis for three!"
(Zind) Despite the ever widening gap on the scoreboard the UVM players show no sign of letting up and the smiles never leave their faces. They laugh and high five all the way to the final buzzer.
(Buzzer/PA announcer) "Today’s final score, Connecticut 104, Vermont 65."
(Zind) When was over, I ask Courtney Pilypaitis what made such a big loss so much fun.
(Pilypaitis) "It’s just so much fun to be out there. This is the arena that everyone wants to play in, so just to be able to do that, that’s what makes it so fun and to get to play the sport you love."
(Zind) Pilypaitis says the experience made her a better player, and offered a helpful lesson in living: Savor every moment and don’t give up.
(Pilypaitis) "Because you never know what’s going to happen."
One thing Pilypaitis and her teammates hopes will happen is that they’ll be playing in the NCAA tournament again next year.
For VPR news, I’m Steve Zind at the University of Connecticut.