BY LAFE PEAVLER
Day 2 of the WCC Tournament was dedicated to the women’s quarterfinals, and it was filled with good fan moments.
I ran into a few Pepperdine fans in orange jumpsuits. Jamie Olaez was one of those fans, and he was kind enough to explain what the jumpsuit was all about.
“It’s a part of Riptide, which is a student-based group that cheers on at games together,” Olaez said. “We do basketball, volleyball, water polo, that type of stuff. The orange jumpsuit, orange is our school color. It allows us to stand out in the crowd.”
When I asked Olaez what the best thing about being a Pepperdine fan was, he responded, “It’s a small enough school where you get to know the athletes. They get to be your friends, so you’re cheering on your friends.”
BYU had its first women’s game of the tournament, and the Cougars had a decent fan turnout. Just like in the Marriott Center, the fans shouted, “Whoosh, Cecil!” after every made BYU free throw. Even better, BYU President Cecil O. Samuelson was there to give his traditional thumbs up in appreciation to the fans.
I ran into quite a few BYU fans before and after the game. But one in particular stands out. I can safely say without any exaggeration that I ran into the biggest BYU fan in Las Vegas.
Her name is Pat Hammond. She lives in the Las Vegas area, and to say that she’s a passionate Cougar fan would be a severe understatement. Before I interviewed her, she showed me her large collection of pictures involving BYU. Anyone who wants to see her collection needs to follow her on Twitter (@crzycougfanatic) and look at her pictures on Instagram. She kindly allowed me to use a few from the tournament below.
This was her first time at the WCC Tournament since she’s been more of a football fan. However, basketball has grown on her. “A few years ago, Jimmer sucked me in. Now I watch every game. Thanks to BYUtv, I’ve watched every basketball game.”
Being a BYU fan has also supported Hammond through difficult times. “I had a son who had a hip replacement when he was 14 because he had an infection in his hip. It was a really, really hard time. There wasn’t a lot of joy about anything in life at that time. And yet I could sit and watch my Cougars on TV and leave that pain for a while.”
Fans like Hammond are the reason I started the Sports BLT.
However, the biggest fan base on hand on Friday was Gonzaga. The Bulldogs had more fans present than the rest of the conference combined.
You would think that Spokane, Wash., was just around the corner rather than a 16-hour drive. Gonzaga fans definitively proved that they are passionate about their women’s basketball.
When I asked these dedicated fans what was the best thing about being a Gonzaga fan, almost all of them instantly gave me the same two-word answer: They win. It’s an accurate assessment, as the Bulldogs have won either the regular season or the WCC Tournament every year since 1999 with 2012 being the only exception. And women’s basketball isn’t too far behind.
I ran into Anita Jones, Liz Peckis, Kate and Jody McGlocklin just outside of the Orleans Arena decked out from head to toe in Gonzaga gear. Jones even had a hat signed by the 2011 team. They noted that Gonzaga is different as far as women’s basketball goes.
“They pack the house,” Peckis told me. “You go to the women’s games, and it’s packed. That hardly ever happens with women’s games elsewhere in the country.”
After seeing how many Gonzaga fans made the trip early to see the women’s team play, I believe it!
I also talked to Ron Dunkin, who is a Gonzaga season ticket holder for the women’s games for the past six years. He’s also been to the WCC Tournament five of the six years it has been in Las Vegas.
“I like watching the girls play. They work very hard,” Dunkin told me. “It’s a lot of fun.” He told me with all confidence that Gonzaga would sweep both men’s and women’s basketball titles.
But that’s not the only thing that set Dunkin apart. He had a large cardboard cutout of Gonzaga’s Danielle Walter’s head. “They actually gave them out to us,” Dunkin explained. “It was a drawing that they had every game. I was fortunate enough to win and bring it down here.”
Well, that’s it for Day 2. Saturday is the men’s quarterfinals, and it will be fun to talk to more fans supporting their teams.