After the Kansas University women’s basketball team’s surprising 70-64 win over Delaware, 12-year-old Catherine Grosdidier called her 92-year-old grandmother from the arena in Little Rock, Ark.
“Can you believe it?” Catherine asked.
Helen Grosdidier, who took the late-night phone call, said she wasn’t sure if the 11th-seeded Jayhawks were going to be able to pull off a win.
“We’ve been so tickled,” she said of the team’s success.
“Tickled,” “thrilled” and “shocked” have all been used by longtime KU women’s basketball fans to describe what it’s like to watch the team advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, something that hasn’t happened in more than a decade.
“We are so excited they are finally reaching this level of the post-season and are being rewarded for the hard work they put in all year,” said Connie Patterson. She was among fans at Allen Fieldhouse Thursday afternoon ready to cheer on the players as they loaded the bus for their Saturday morning game in Des Moines, Iowa.
“This is historic. It’s an exciting time for KU,” said Lon Dormer who drove from Topeka with his wife, Mary, to wish the women well.
Jason Parker started watching the women’s team in elementary school while his mom worked the concession stands at Allen Fieldhouse. At 26, he is getting a kick out of seeing Angel Goodrich’s name trending on Twitter and seeing the team on the front of ESPN.com. A common occurrence for KU men’s basketball, the recognition is unheard of for the women, Parker said.
“As a fan I’m excited. I like seeing all the people talking about it on Twitter and Facebook” Parker said. “They are getting some of the attention and spotlight too.”
After leading scorer Carolyn Davis suffered a season-ending injury five weeks ago, many fans feared the team wouldn’t go far in the tournament, if it even made it in at all.
“This really started out to be a great year. Our players really had a lot of talent and were getting the system and getting comfortable. So to have Carolyn get hurt was a real blow. Everyone that was the least bit involved was just crushed when that happened,” said Sarah Merriman, who cheers at all the home games and even travels to some of the away ones. “So to see these kids, particular the freshmen, figure out how to play without Carolyn and step up and do what they’ve done is just really fantastic,”
Twelve-year-old Catherine was among those who hadn’t lost faith in the team after Davis’ injury.
“I did believe they would be in the tournament,” she said. “I was very excited when I first heard about it. I started screaming.”
Catherine’s passion for the team began after she attended KU coach Bonnie Henrickson’s basketball camps nearly six years ago. She liked watching the women play and was impressed with how approachable they were.
“They are always very nice, fun to be around and will talk to you,” said Catherine, who one day hopes to play collegiate basketball.
The women’s trip to the Sweet 16 is the highlight of Catherine’s spring break. At Tuesday’s game, she screamed so loud she lost her voice.
“I told my grandma they deserve to win after what they have been through,” Catherine said.
Catherine and her family will be heading to Des Monies to watch Saturday’s 11 a.m. game against No. 2 seed Tennessee.
Regardless of the outcome, loyal fans hope the team’s recent exposure will help fill the seats at next season’s home games. But it’s doubtful the team will find anyone to surpass the enthusiasm of Catherine.
“There is no one who loves them more than she does,” Helen Grosdidier said of her granddaughter. “It’s been thrilling.”