Sunday, March 23, 2014

VU Student Challenge Recap

Hi, I’m Meg, a senior Chemical Engineering major and this year’s winner of the VU Student Challenge!
Three of my friends and I drove up to Buffalo on Thursday, which only took a little over six hours. We went straight to the VUAA reception at the team hotel. The lobby was filled with Villanova and Syracuse fans where we spotted Tyler Ennis with his family in the hotel restaurant. 

We enjoyed mingling with Wil D Cat (I am second from the right) before the team left around 7:45 and we left for First Niagara Center shortly thereafter.
We made it over in time to watch most of the second half of the UConn/St. Joe's game. There were a surprising number of Cuse, Dayton, and Ohio St fans still in the arena from session 1. It was a fun game to watch and I was excited to see it go into overtime. This of course delayed our game, but I was personally happy at the time to see the hawk die. 
Nova had two sections in the arena, 104, directly behind the Villanova bench and section 304 directly above. All of the students were up in the front few rows of 304. Honestly not many students at Thursday's game, maybe only about 20. Fortunately by the time the game started a lot of our section had cleared out so we were able to stand for the entire game without blocking anyone's view. We cheered as loud as we could but not too sure how much of it translated down to the lower level. It was a very interesting setup as First Niagara is a hockey arena and there were no seats behind the baskets, only chairs set up for the bands, who apparently were not allowed to stand during the game. 

It was great to have my first NCAA tournament game be the first tournament win for Nova in my four years here. Not being able to hit a three was frustrating and there were a few stressful moments in the first half but the energy in our section was always high and Hilliard did a great job of carrying the team. 

After the game we headed over the border to our hotel in Canada overlooking Horseshoe Falls. It was absolutely beautiful (Thank you!) and after checking in the dark, it amazing to wake up to such a beautiful view.
View from our hotel room

We spent most of Friday exploring the Falls on both the American and Canadian side, I would definitely recommend the view from Canada. We walked across the pedestrian bridge to get a cool view of the Falls.
Niagara Falls was partially frozen
The ice was still very thick on the river

On the bridge between Canada and USA
American side of Niagara Falls

Horseshoe Falls

Canadian Side of Horseshoe Falls 

We went to the VUAA reception on Friday afternoon at Templeton Landing. It was a beautiful location and a great atmosphere. We had a lot of fun getting to meet alumni and Amy Layman! We were interviewed for CBS Philly KYW 1060 radio, which was very cool. We also got on NBC 10 news!
Templeton Landing VUAA Reception
Saturday was gameday again and we spent the morning catching up on sleep and homework. We arrived early at First Niagara Center hoping for better student seats, but they were once again up in section 304. Then we headed to the pre-game reception at the team hotel. The number of Villanova fans seemed to have doubled from Thursday. Many students were able to make the trip up for the weekend game and it was a great atmosphere. We met so many great Villanovans including George Kolb and a few board members. Alumni encouraged us and other students to move down and fill in seats in section 104 after the Syracuse/Dayton game. 
We found George Kolb after looking for him at all of the VUAA events!
The team departed the hotel around 8 PM flanked by cheerleaders and the band playing in the lobby.
Jay and the Wright family making their way down the escalators. 
We made it to First Niagara in time to see the second half of Dayton/Syracuse. I must say it very enjoyable to see Dayton juice the Cuse and silence an arena full of orange. Villanova student section cheered very loudly for Dayton and enjoyed that when our game started most of the orange were rooting for Nova over UConn.
Dayton celebrating in front of their fan section.
Many of the Villanova students (which I would guess there were about 75 on Saturday) including my friends and I moved down to the lower Nova section for the start of the game, filling in seats after cuse fans had left. It was a great view and fun to sit amongst the players families.
Last entrance for the 13-14 Cats

Honestly, I am still not over last nights game and haven't really talked about it. It was a great atmosphere and a game that I felt we could have won. There were some terrible calls that were real momentum changers. I would have loved to see James Bell and Tony Chennault go out with better performances, but I give the team credit for continuing to battle all game. I could see the frustration and devastation on their faces. While I had tears streaming down my face as the final buzzer blew on my final game as a student, I could not have been more proud of our team who were pegged to finish 4th in the Big East.

This weekend was an amazing experience that truly meant the world to me. Being able to support our Cats at the NCAA tournament was a dream come true. I am so thankful and forever grateful to all the alums who contributed for this amazing opportunity. I love Villanova Basketball and quite honestly don't know what to do now that our season is over. I look forward to coming to games as an alum and someday sending other students to the tourney to have the amazing experience I did.