SATANNA: Senior Night culmination of timeless memories

Kaitlin Santanna

Once upon a time, over three years ago, I was waiting in line for Hoops Mania. While my friends and I waited in anticipation for our first Villanova basketball experience, we overheard a group of students much older than us discussing this event they called “Senior Night.” I found it odd that this group of students was already talking about one of the last games of the season at a pregame festivity, but throughout my four years at Villanova, I have heard nothing but similar excitement for Senior Night.

After years of anticipation, tonight my very own Senior Night has finally come. Along with receiving a guaranteed ticket to the game and early access into the Pavilion, I am looking forward to cheering on our Wildcats with a host of my classmates. Although the pregame festivities will be exciting, the real appeal of this evening is the celebration of the sport and building that has made my Villanova experience more meaningful than I ever could have imagined back at my first Hoops Mania in the fall of 2005.

It was during that Hoops Mania that I took my first step into the Pavilion as a Villanova men’s basketball fan, and it changed my life forever. I, of course, sat in the Pavilion several times previously for events such as Candidates’ Day and the candle lighting ceremony during orientation, but the aura that the Pavilion takes on once the Villanova boards are down and the student section bleachers are pulled out is almost indescribable. Excitement is palpable in the air and surges of energy swell from the Pavilion’s floor up to the upper corners of the its peaks. The second that my senses first caught wind of this atmosphere, I was hooked.

To this day, even after covering Villanova sports teams for over seven semesters, it still amazes me how huge of a sports university I have had the pleasure of attending. Though it is obviously fun to be surrounded by such a vibrant and successful sports program from a journalism perspective, part of the Villanova experience is being wrapped up in the successes and failures of those athletes wearing the Wildcat blue and white.

While true of every sport on campus, the concept of Villanova as a community is best exemplified during men’s basketball games. The student section is always packed with a sea of blue fans, whether standing on the bleachers at the Pavilion or filling over six sections at the Wachovia Center.

It is in this student section that a combination of tradition and invention are constantly swirled together in the form of cheers and chants. No sound gives me goosebumps more than a perfectly timed “Let’s Go ‘Nova” chant. No image is more thrilling than hundreds of students standing with both arms quietly, all waiting with breathless anticipation for a Wildcat free throw.

I distinctly remember that as a freshman I was completely confused by the program of cheers and arm motions that occurred throughout a game. When I learned and was able to teach others, however, I gained a sense of belonging that only comes with becoming a fan.

I went on for much of my college career under the assumption that this initiation to a special club, becoming a collegiate fan, was something that all students experienced – the obsessive refreshing of ESPN’s men’s basketball rankings Monday afternoon to see where your team was ranked for that week, the silent awe of seeing a basketball player in the flesh in one of your classes, the hanging of giant posters with the schedule of your college team on your dorm room wall. When I was watching another Division-I college basketball game on ESPN, however, I saw a stadium that was at best half-filled. I realized how fortunate I was to attend a university with such a strong sense of pride coming from not only the students, but the outside community as well.

Over the past four years, the Pavilion has come to hold a special place in my heart. I have had many firsts in the Pavilion, some sports related and some not. It was in this hallowed building that I held my first interview with a basketball player and my first experience sitting courtside at a game. Under the shelter of the Pavilion roof, I have stayed up all night for Up ‘Til Dawn. It was there during my junior year that I received my class ring that I wear everyday.

In less than three short months, I will graduate. My greatest hope is that I will not forget my fantastic memories of being a Villanova fan.

I will never forget the first time that I felt the sway of the student section when as Wildcat fans jump for joy after an incredible play or heard the sheer deafening sound that a full Pavilion can produce. There is a reason why the men’s team has won 26 games in a row at Villanova, and it is because the Pavilion has a way of reducing even the nation’s best teams to recreational squads.

I am extremely fortunate for these experiences over my past four years at Villanova. I wait in anticipation to celebrate my last men’s basketball game as a student in the Pavilion. Even though Senior Night will mark the end of an era in my career as a sports fan, my blood has forever been changed to the colors of blue and white.

Throughout the rest of my existence, I will always remember standing in the student section and the perpetual belief that comes with cheering for your favorite sports team.

I knew that I would feel attached to whatever college I attended, but I never could have guessed that when I entered the Pavilion on that fateful Hoops Mania day over three years ago that I would be joining a community that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

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Kaitlin Santanna is a senior mathetmatics and communication major from Hummelstown, Pa. She can be reached at [email protected]