Published March 16, 2016
UB Bulls from across the area filed into Alumni Arena this morning to send off the UB women’s basketball team to its first appearance in the Big Dance.
The first-time MAC champion Bulls are headed to Columbus, Ohio, where they will face third-seeded Ohio State on Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Players were met with cheers from excited fans and the UB Dazzlers when they left the arena lobby on their “Walk to Victory” to board a bus to Columbus and, hopefully, the program’s first NCAA Tournament victory.
The trip also marks the first “Dance” for UB head coach Felisha Legette-Jack.
“I’ve been coaching for 27 years — 25 at the college level — and to have this be my first time going to the NCAA with this team, this team that really made me lock in to everything… my heart is just wide open for this team,” said Legette-Jack, who previously coached at Hofstra and Indiana before joining UB in 2012.
“I think there’s some divine intervention that’s happening right now; he’s just making it happen for us.”
Relatively new, yet die-hard UB women’s basketball fans Robert and Judith Galganski agreed.
“It seems like there’s a manifest destiny that they made it this year,” said Robert Galganski. “They were picked to finish last in the conference. Most people thought that they’d be eliminated as the bottom seed and would be knocked out in the first game. And they’ve showed everybody that they are truly worthy of being MAC champions.”
The Galganskis, both UB alums, have only followed UB women’s basketball for three years. But their Bulls pride is among the bluest.
The couple haven’t missed a home game in those three years. They regularly attend practices, have written letters to Legette-Jack and even shared a lunch with the coaches.
The pair views the players as their daughters and were among the last to leave the send-off.
“It feels like we’re part of the family,” said Judith Galganski. “We’ve been rooting for them since day one, we believe in them and they just give their all. They deserve it.”
Although the Galganskis believed in the team from the beginning, many did not. The Bulls lost seven players from last season who accounted for 87 percent of the scoring. The group also was selected by MAC coaches to finish last in their division. Few considered them contenders for the MAC championship.
Instead, the team finished with a 20-13 record, and as the eighth-seed became the lowest seed in MAC history to win the women’s championship.
“Not only are we trying to prove a point to people, but to ourselves that we are good enough. We were good enough to win a MAC championship and we are good enough to get past the first round,” said Joanna Smith, a junior guard who leads the team in scoring.
On Friday, the Galganskis — along with the rest of the nation — will tune in to watch the Bulls prove what they knew all along.