Citizens of ‘Nova Nation Unite

Laura Welch

It is about 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning, and senior Maggie Grace is getting into the driver’s seat of her car. Not the passenger seat, not the back seat, but the driver’s seat. After all, it would be bad luck to sit anywhere else. It’s game day. And on game day Maggie always sits in the front driver’s seat. “I always drive … for good luck,” Maggie says. “I like to get there early, have control of the car.We go as early as possible. We get in line. We don’t tailgate.” Maggie is not only the Executive Board President of the Basketball Club but a passionate Villanova basketball fan – both roles she regards as “equally important.” Seven years ago, Maggie’s brother Tommy became a walk-on member of the Villanova Wildcats basketball team, and Maggie has been an avid fan ever since. Over the past seven years, Maggie has only missed five home games. Each game she wears the same shirt and always sits in the front row. Whether the game is at the Pavilion or Wachovia Center, she is there at least two hours early. At first glance, you could not point her out as the typical overzealous fan. She is not body painted from head to toe, and she is not necessarily the loudest person in her row. For Maggie, you do not have to be the loudest to be a good fan. You just have to be passionate and supportive, win or lose. “The best fan is the one that is encouraging to others around them, getting other people involved and is being intense,” Maggie says. “I do all that, but I am not saying I am the most crazy fan because I’m not. I also like to analyze and watch the game.”Of the roughly 100 Wildcat games Maggie has attended over the past seven years, she is quick to claim that the fan morale this season is the best she has ever seen. She cites the unwavering support of fans as a huge component to the season’s turnaround. “This year, the whole student body is coming together,” Maggie says. Within minutes of the big wins against Clemson and Siena, Facebook statuses were quickly updated to reflect Wildcat support, and away messages boasted of a spot in the Sweet 16. On the night of Feb. 4, the tragic night of the loss to St. Joe’s, not many would have been able to predict that tomorrow the Wildcats will play in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament. Yet many fans continued to cheer on the Wildcats regardless of their mid-season rut. “When we lost that five game streak it was like regular,” freshman guard Corey Stokes says. “When we played home games, it would still be sold out. [The fans] just give us their all. That’s why we love being part of this family and tradition.” Junior forward Dante Cunningham agrees, saying, “There was never a time when we were losing that we didn’t have people in our stands. They always would stay behindus. We have the greatest fans in the country.”During the Wildcats’ mid-season lull, a Facebook group was started to rally continued support for the team, and T-shirts were sold on campus with the words “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Agnes Reschke, who is the fundraising chairperson for Villanova’s sailing team that sponsored the T-shirts, said the T-shirts sold out in 48 hours and Jay Wright himself bought six. “It had a big impact on our team, that the students on campus were telling them, ‘We’re with you,'” Head Coach Jay Wright says. Christopher Bellotti, who started the Facebook group and organized the task force for “Don’t Stop Believing: The Campaign for Villanova Basketball,” has personally received support from Wright and other members of the team. “Dwayne Anderson said that there’s a group talking about ‘we believe,’ and I think he was talking about Chris … I told our kids and told them that that doesn’t happen anywhere,” Wright says. The support the student body has continued to show the Wildcats is a huge part of their success and an advantage the Wildcats can claim over other collegiate teams. No matter what, Villanova fans know that the members of the team are not just basketball players; they are their fellow students and part of their community. “[The fans] helped them get through it, as a team… it helped show them that Villanova is different,” Wright says. “They care about you, whether you win or lose; they care about you as a person, not just as a basketball player. That’s huge.” Kyle Scudilla contributed additional reporting.