Villanovans Rally Behind Women’s Basketball


Brian Luppy/Villanovan Photography

Fans support the Women’s Basketball Team as they head into March Madness.

Elijah McDow, Staff Writer

When “Villanova” is mentioned, the first thing that often comes to mind is not Holy Grounds, Bartley or the trenches of Tolentine, but the reputation the school has built as a basketball powerhouse. 


While the men’s team finds itself missing out on the NCAA tournament for the first time since the 2011-2012 season, the women are back in the tournament for the second consecutive year. This time however, instead of beginning “The Road to Dallas” in a visiting locker room, the Wildcats found themselves playing on home soil. 


Despite having mixed feelings about the men’s season, the excitement of Villanova students is far from over. On Saturday, the women played their first-round game against Cleveland State. While they were slated to play in the second game of the day, this did not stop students from making the trek to the Finneran Pavilion well in advance of the 5 p.m. tip-off. Wearing blue and white, equipped with signs and already throwing their Vs up, Villanovans of all class years and majors came together as a community to cheer their team to victory. 


Of the approximately 6,700 undergraduate students at Villanova, none of them enjoyed the past few days more than sophomore Ryan Hartnett. From Hoops Mania to now, Hartnett has been at almost every home game for both men and women. Apart from an a cappella performance, nothing can stop Hartnett from cheering on the Wildcats. 


Standing in the front row wearing a jersey, his lucky hat and jumping up and down, he frequently makes an appearance on the Jumbotron and national television. When asked about March Madness, Hartnett shared how meaningful it is to him that Villanova got to play at home. 


“I was beyond excited that the women’s team hosted the first round of the tournament as they’ve been incredible to watch through the entire season,” Hartnett said. “This season has meant so much to me being a die-hard fan because we are witnessing greatness right in front of our eyes with the GOAT (“Greatest of all Time”), Maddy Siegrist and a women’s team playing at a level we haven’t seen from them since the ’03-’04 season.”  


In addition to discussing his excitement, Hartnett also emphasized the importance of showing the team the respect they deserve beyond this season. Like many other Villanovans, he feels strongly that all 6,500 seats in Finneran Pavilion should be filled for every women’s home game. 


“Every year, the student body often pushes the women’s team aside always saying, ‘Oh, the women’s team isn’t good,’ or ‘Oh, no one goes to the games,’ but, this year, the team has been balling out and getting more attention than I could remember,” Hartnett said. “I really hope the energy from this weekend continues because the women’s team deserves to have all 6,500 of us behind them.”


The energy in the Finn and across campus has been infectious. Along with Hartnett, fellow sophomore Victoria Newsome has been feeling the full effects of March Madness. As a member of Villanovan Television (VTV), Newsome has interviewed the likes of Christina Dalce, Lucy Olsen and Maddy Siegrist for her series called “What’s A Wildcat Do Before Gameday?” 


“I am so thrilled for the women’s basketball team,” Newsome said. “They really deserve it and I’m glad these talented ladies have the opportunity to compete again this year in the NCAA tournament.”


In addition to her role at VTV, Newsome is also in her second season as a member of the Villanova Dance Team. While she mainly dances at the men’s home games, she occasionally dances at the women’s games and did so on Saturday. 


“Although I haven’t danced for all women’s home games, I love watching how they play, and I was so excited to perform this Saturday,” she said. “This season has been full of high energy and passion, so I can’t wait to see how the ‘Cats dance in March.”


While Newsome has spent time getting to know the players, sophomore Jacob English has also been an avid supporter of the team. 


Of all the games he has watched this year, watching Maddy Siegrist break Villanova’s all-time scoring record was undoubtedly his favorite moment. 


“I’ve loved watching the women’s basketball team this year,” English said. “They’ve been very consistent all year which is all you can hope for in college and they’re led by my favorite women’s basketball player ever, Maddy Siegrist.” 


English, like Harnett, feels very privileged to be a Villanova student at a time when the team’s star player is breaking record after record. 


“In my opinion, [Maddy Siegrist] is the best NCAA player right now,” he said.


Saturday and Monday’s games was a comfortable win for the Wildcats, but the games ahead will not be as easy. To get to Dallas, Siegrist and the Wildcats need to play their best basketball of the season and, more importantly, they will need the full support of everyone associated with Nova Nation. 


Throughout a season, and especially during March Madness, the support of a fanbase can make all the difference. Out of all the schools left in the tournament, none of them have a community that celebrates or supports one another like Villanova and its students, and rallying behind Siegrist and her teammates is no exception. 


Although it is unclear how the Wildcats will perform against tougher opponents, one thing that is certain is that all community members need to demonstrate the same level of support that Hartnett, Newsome and English have all shown over their two years as Villanova students.