STORRS, CT – As Vermont women’s basketball has arrived in Storrs, CT and prepares to face the UConn Huskies at 3 p.m on Saturday, many players are experiencing pinch-me moments.
“Walking in…I got a little stars-struck,” said senior Emma Utterback on her first steps inside UConn’s Gampel Pavilion.
And why wouldn’t she be? UConn has made the final four 17 times during Utterback’s lifetime and won nine national championships.
“They are historically a very very good program,” said senior Delaney Richason. “They kind of are one of the teams out of many that put women’s basketball on the map.”
It even had junior forward Anna Olson wanting to be a Husky when she was growing up. “Just because it was UConn and my best friend and I would watch all their games,” she remembered.
Of course, Olson chose Vermont and now the Catamounts find themselves only hours away from a March Madness matchup with the legendary team.
“I don’t think I would believe it if I said it was UConn we were facing tomorrow,” said sophomore Maria Myklebust.
“I wish I could go back to my younger self where she was sitting on the couch watching those games and just be like, ‘you’re going to be playing against them someday and you’re going to be freaking out, but you’re going to be ready, and you’re going to be prepared,'” said Utterback.
What would a young Utterback do if she were confronted with this information? “I think she would be jumping up and down on the couch and running around the entire house because she wouldn’t believe it, and she’d be like, ‘okay, let’s go do it,’” the longtime Catamount imagined.
That’s exactly what’s going to happen. It won’t be easy, it won’t even be hard, it will be near impossible but that doesn’t matter to these Catamounts.
“I’ve seen a lot of people’s brackets having UConn actually go all the way to the championship. I think for our mindset we just have to think of them as any other team, any other game,” said sophomore standout Catherine Gilwee. “No one is expecting us to win, no one thinks that we’re going to win. So using that as some extra fuel and just going out there and coming in as the underdog and giving it all that we got and hopefully getting the upset.”
But if this team can’t pull off the round of 64 win, it doesn’t at all take away what they accomplished this year. While the Catamounts were still in Burlington, the team cited its 17 game win streak to end the season, which is on the line on Saturday, and its first tournament bid in 13 years as positive takeaways.
“At the end of the day, this is in my mind a perfect season,” said Utterback. “Obviously I want to go as far as we can in the tournament, but the way that our team has pushed through and we came out on top and now we’re playing a great team. I wouldn’t want anything more.”