Students greet team at rally
A pep rally was held on Fairfield Way to commemorate and celebrate the men and women basketball champions on the victory and return home. A press conference was held and the UConn pep band played throughout the event. Many students gathered and greeted the athletes they had been cheering for over the course of the tournament. STEVEN QUICK/The Daily Campus
Just one day after winning its ninth NCAA National Championship, a second straight win after last year, the University of Connecticut women's basketball team landed in Connecticut on Wednesday afternoon for a celebratory National Champions "Victory Lap" through the middle of the Storrs campus.
After landing at Bradley International Airport at 3 p.m., the team met Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman before heading back to the heart of UConn Country.
Arriving around 4:30 p.m., the players rode in an open-air double decker bus and were accompanied by the UConn pep band and cheerleaders.
The victory lap began at the corner of Storrs and North Eagleville Roads, then left onto Glenbrook Road and another left onto the "CLAS" Bus way. They then drove in front of the Wilbur Cross Building and Gulley Hall, where they turned right and made it onto Fairfield Way. Once there, the team passed Homer Babbidge Library and, finally, ended at Fairfield Way Plaza - between the Student Union and School of Business - where speeches were given to an enthusiastic crowd of Husky fans.
As fans awaited the team's arrival, UConn Football coach Bob Diaco and his team joined them during a break from practice. Soon after, a few of the players from the men's basketball team appeared as well.
Minutes later, the national champions arrived.
Bob Joyce, the radio announcer for the women's basketball team, served as the master of ceremonies for the event.
First up was UConn Athletic Director Warde Manuel. He spoke of the on-going success with the school's sports program and the role it plays in making the university better.
Stefanie Dolson, a senior center, took the microphone and spoke about her time at UConn. "It was the people [that made me come here]; it was the feeling that I got when I walked on this campus. And being able to play in front of you guys for four years has been an honor and I'm going to miss it a lot."
Senior guard Bria Hartley got emotional as well talking about Coach Geno Auriemma's impact on her life.
"Coach you mean so much to me and I love you so much," Hartley said.
Ben Lanzoni, a 4th-semester accounting major, attended the ceremony.
"It felt like there was a really good atmosphere here and everybody from around the area was here to cheer them on," Lanzoni said. "It was really good for the school and Geno and Stef, Bria and the Athletic Director, they really pumped up the crowd with all their speeches about championships."
"It's always great to see the fans here. The students, staff and other supporters are always there for us. It's something we'll always appreciate," Auriemma said in an interview.
A parade will be held to celebrate the two basketball teams' NCAA Championship wins on Sunday at 4 p.m. in downtown Hartford.
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