The last time the University of Dayton Flyers made it to the NCAA tournament Sweet 16, Brendan McGinnity wasn’t even born, let along any member of the current team. That was in 1984.
But Saturday’s stunning 55-53 victory of the Syracuse Orangmen, made sure McGinnity and the latest generation of the UD community get to experience another round of basketball.
“I’ve been waiting five long years for this,” screamed the fifth-year senior as he raised his drink and climbed up on a table at Buffalo Wild Wings on Brown Street.
The restaurant was packed with at least 200 UD students and fans who erupted in chants of “Let’s Go Flyers” and “Go U.D.!” as Syracuse missed its last shot and the game clock expire.
“I knew we could do it,” said 20-year-old Kara Fry of Springboro, a junior studying business at UD and a lifetime Flyers fan. “I knew if we played hare enough, and we wanted it enough, we could win.
“We already showed we could do it,” Fry said, referring to the Flyers win over a higher-seeded Ohio State in the first round of the NCAA tournament last Thursday. “All they had to do was believe they could do it again.”
California native Greta Goorsky, a 21-year-old junior studying sports management, said she decided to attend UD, in part, because of its “awesome basketball program,” which, she said, gets no respect in her hometown.
“All my friends asked me why I was moving to Ohio,” Goorsky said. “No one will question why I moved now. We had already made a name for ourselves when we beat Ohio State. This just adds to our already awesome reputation. No one can disrespect us now.”
Rafael Maragarida, a basketball “fanatic” from Puerto Rico and an 18-year-old freshman at UD, said he couldn’t have imagined a better start to his college career.
“I knew we were good, but, honestly, I wasn’t sure if we could beat Syracuse,” Maragarida said. “It all depends on what team shows up. When Syracuse is off, they’re off. They were off tonight, and we hit shots when it counted.”
From the newest to the most veteran Flyers fans, the teams tenacity and never-say-die attitude stood out.
“For tournament games, Flyers come alive,” said Ray Wabler, a UD alumni who organized a watch party hosted by University of Dayton Alumni Association at Barleycorn’s on 6204 Wilmington Pike.
Wabler, counted more than 100 people at the sports bar. He said it was the best turnout of the year and the alumni’s intensity is ten-fold during the tournament games.
Kelly Lybrook, a 2010 UD alum, led the group in the “Go Dayton Flyers” chant during halftime of the game.
“Unbelievable! I haven’t seen this many people come together for one sporting event. Young, old and alike everybody is getting into it just the same!” Lybrook said. “The camaraderie of all these people is unbelievable. UD fans are the truest fans there are.”