‘The women’s team is such an inspiration:’ Fans welcome national champion Gamecocks home

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Published: Apr. 4, 2022 at 8:41 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The University of South Carolina gamecock women’s basketball team is back home in Columbia after defeating the University of Connecticut on Sunday night and capturing their second national championship.

Upon their return to Colonial Life Arena just after 3 o’clock Monday afternoon, hundreds of fans greeted them with a heroes’ welcome.

Many fans said the celebration is just getting started. All hope to, as junior forward Aliyah Boston said at Monday’s welcome home event, “bring it back next year.”

For UofSC students, it’s time to party like it’s 2017, the year the Gamecocks won their first title.

“We watched Dawn Staley at the Olympics so it’s cool to see it all come to fruition here,” one junior said. “You never imagine that your school’s going to win the national championship.”

UofSC sophomore Caroline Porter said she’s been cheering for the Gamecocks all season, and Sunday’s win was an incredible moment for her and her friends.

“None of my friends knew the tradition of running into the fountain,” she said. “And we’re all tour guides. So it’s like, ‘Guys, we have to go to the fountain right now. I’ll drive us. Let’s go, let’s go.’ I park in the garage, we’re sprinting, and it’s just the wildest moment of my entire life. I was sending videos to my parents. They’re like, ‘What’s going on?’”

Lifelong Gamecock fan Pamela Leonard said the outpouring of support demonstrated at Colonial Life Arena on Monday is thanks to the leadership of head coach Dawn Staley.

“I think it’s a statement and a testimony to Dawn and how she’s elevated women’s basketball,” she said. “They’ve earned it.”

Staley is only the sixth coach in women’s NCAA history to win more than one title.

Jazmyne Boyd, a UofSC senior, said Staley is an inspiration to her.

“It’s very exciting to see a Black woman carry a team all these years and to get it all and win it all in a championship,” she said. “It’s very uplifting and it makes you feel like very powerful and like you could do anything.”

WIS spoke exclusively with Columbia Mayor Daniel Rickenmann at Monday’s event. He’s a UofSC alum, and could hardly contain his excitement.

“The women’s team is such an inspiration,” he said. “These girls have just fought so hard all the time. To be back here and get a chance to see the coach, and I’ll be honest, I got my picture taken with Destanni [Henderson] because after that game last night she’s my hero. She was unbelievable in playing. But the energy that those girls have shown and the passion and their fight to win it, it’s great.”

Rickenmann said final details are still being worked out, but the city is planning a parade to honor the Gamecocks and their championship sometime in the next week.

“If it’s anything near like it was in 2017, I think a lot of people are going to have a good time,” he said.

Country music star and UofSC alum Darius Rucker has said he plans to hold a concert on campus to celebrate the Gamecocks as well. The university spokesperson said that details on that concert are still being worked out, but to “stay tuned.”

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