By Zach Newcastle
USC School of Journalism
The Gamecock women’s basketball team came home Monday to a crowd of Gamecock fans after their loss to Notre Dame in the NCAA Final Four.
The moment the plane landed around 12:30 p.m. at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport, cheers erupted from the swarm of Gamecock faithful waiting at Eagle Aviation terminal.
“DAWN!” “GAME … COCKS!”
The team members, led by head coach Dawn Staley, were nothing but smiles as they approached the cheering fans.
The players and coaches walked the line of fans, high-fiving and hugging them as they passed. The players showed none of the disappointment from their 66-65 loss Sunday in the program’s first appearance in the Final Four.
“I’ve been a fan for 15 years. This is as good as it gets,” said Lynn Bailey, who waited almost an hour to greet the team. “They represented South Carolina well. They are a class act.”
Fans had special praise for Staley. “I wouldn’t want anyone else coaching the team,” said Shar Player. “It’s an amazing accomplishment. If you set a goal and dedicate yourself, you can achieve it.”
Staley was enthusiastic about the support from the Gamecock faithful. In a short press conference before leaving the airport, Staley said she knew Gamecock fans would welcome the team home.
“I’m not surprised at all,” Staley said. “I know we have the best fans in the world.”