This year is my first as a University of Dayton alumna, and after experiencing five St. Patrick’s Day celebrations surrounded by a sea of green Flyers lining Lowes Street, I felt a certain ache about being away from “home” this year. But I would soon be surrounded by more Flyers than I ever would have found on campus.
Shelby Quinlivan ’06, a co-worker and possibly the biggest Flyer fanatic I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, agreed to join me on the trip to St. Louis to see the men’s basketball team make its third-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. We hit the highway for the six-hour drive.
As our journey progressed west, we saw the fleets of Archie’s Army on I-70. It seemed that every car on the highway was adorned with #FlyerFaithful bumper stickers and decals — and even a car painted “LOWD and proud.”
It was like playing the license plate game, but looking for anything and everything UD.
A sea of red awaited our arrival in St. Louis. Dancing around the alumni pre-game celebration on Friday morning at Ballpark Village, a dining and entertainment district downtown, I met people who had arrived from both coasts and all parts in between.
Lori Hausfeld said she travels from her home in Florida to UD Arena for all the men’s basketball home games. The tournament was no exception. “It’s like a big reunion,” she said, glancing around the room filled with alumni. “It’s like a family.”
With the sounds of Willie Morris and the Flyer Pep Band filling the air, another grad told me he could only stay for a day because he had to return to California for his 8-year-old’s soccer game. The energy in the room was #loUD and #proUD as Flyers chanted a rounding “O-O-O-O-N.”
The journey, unfortunately, would end for the Flyers that day. After a strong first half with just a 2-point deficit at halftime against Syracuse, the Flyers couldn’t repeat their wizardry of 2014 and 2015 to advance to the next round. But the game was not absent of magic. Toward the game’s end, the Scottrade Center erupted in applause. I turned to the man next to me to ask what was going on; he told me the seniors were being applauded off the court. Without prompting, the Flyer Faithful were on their feet. The final score was not on our side — 70-51 — but there was no absence of pride for how far this team had come.
After the game, we made our way back to Ballpark Village to grab a bite and reunite with fellow Flyers. We saw one wearing a Flyer sweater vest and Xavier cap. “I went to undergrad at UD got my masters from Xavier,” he said. Another Flyer/Musketeer said he went to UD but had since moved to Cincinnati and was looking for any and every way to show his Ohio pride while in St. Louis.
When Shelby and I headed home Saturday morning, we once again played our license plate game, knowing now that the people in those cars were the same ones we’d cheered and chanted with in St. Louis. I-70 had become our Lowes Street.
As the University’s social media strategist, Michaela Eames ’15 tells the UD story often in 140 characters or less. For the last two years — one as a student and one as a full-time staffer — she’s shared the excitement of UD’s NCAA Tournament runs with thousands of Flyer Faithful who’ve liked, retweeted and shared her words.