Walking through the Houston airport on Friday, it was evident that ‘Nova Nation would be out in full force at NRG Stadium for Saturday’s game against the Oklahoma Sooners. Villanova fans would put their V’s up as they passed each other and shouts of “Go Cats!” echoed throughout the Houston airport.
However, for some students the trip to Houston was not an easy one. Bad weather forced delays and cancellations of several flights. Because of these unexpected hiccups, some students did just about anything they could to get to Houston in time for the game. And even then, many missed some or most of the game.
“Getting to Houston was an absolute mess,” freshman Matt Karlson said. He got to the airport early Saturday morning and had a flight connecting through Chicago. However, broken airplane parts and snowstorms caused huge delays. Landing in Houston at 5:05 p.m., just five minutes before tipoff, Karlson managed to shove his way off the airplane and make it to the stadium by the end of the first half. Luckily, his troubles were well worth it.
Students brought the energy and excitement to NRG Stadium, arriving hours before the game to claim their tickets and grab front row seats to the game. Despite being smaller than usual, the student section would prove that ‘Nova fans are the “best fans in college basketball,” as Head Coach Jay Wright has said repeatedly.
From the time the ball was tipped into Oklahoma’s hands for the first possession of the game to the final seconds, every seat in the student section was empty because everyone was on their feet. The students formed a sea of blue and white and their energy was as forceful as a tsunami.
“To say that the energy there was electrifying would not do it justice,” Senior Patrick Ciapciak said, “Just looking at my fellow students around me, knowing that they too were so dedicated that they also emptied their bank accounts to travel to Houston was an experience I will vividly remember for the rest of my life.”
“This was the best money I’ve ever spent!” Senior Kayla Lam said.
“It was completely unreal,” Karlson said. “Villanova played the perfect game. Watching bucket after bucket go in, it felt like we would never stop scoring. It felt like a dream.”
The students’ energy was so high that it attracted the attention of Vice President Joe Biden and Second Lady Jill Biden, as well as renowned basketball announcer Dick Vitale. Even the hosts of pregame and half time shows including Greg Gumbel, took videos and pictures with ‘Nova students as the backdrop.
As the game progressed the intensity of the students’ celebrations increased exponentially. Students literally climbed on top of chairs and continuously yelled Villanova’s signature “Let’s Go Nova!” chant. As the Wildcats went on a 25-0 run to finish the game, making a victory more and more likely, the Cats went wild.
Amidst the chaos, the student section morphed into a blur of people screaming, strangers hugging and a united body tied together by this incredible experience.
“It was so insane,” Senior Ashley Brede said. “The screaming and celebrations continued all the way to the train in a wave of ceaseless chaos that echoed through the hallways of the stadium and the streets of downtown Houston.”