Sweet 16: Braves’ NCAA run
With each Cinderella step
When trying out for Bradley cheerleading, Stephanie Bauer ’09 admitted she had no idea what to expect. However, it wouldn’t be long before she found herself at huge arenas across the nation, cheering for a basketball team about to make history.
While the rest of their classmates were away on spring break, Bauer and other Bradley cheerleaders stayed on campus anticipating news of Bradley winning the coveted bid to the NCAA tournament. Upon winning the bid, the cheerleaders were with them every step of their NCAA journey to the Sweet 16.
“The first game was chaos,” the retail merchandising major from Oak Lawn said of performing in the Palace at Auburn Hills. “It was overwhelming at first, but you learned to get used to it. I’d be in the middle of a cheer, and the press would trample over me.”
Biology major Sarah Peterson ’08 knows all about the pressures of performing in front of the big energetic crowds seen at the Palace of Auburn Hills and Oakland Arena. Peterson played her piccolo as a member of the Bradley basketball band.
“We were intimidated. When we went to the tournament, it was a bit scary because it was so much bigger than the Civic Center,” she said. “We had to remember to stay together and in tune and do what we always do,” which, she added, was hard amid all the excitement.
“I needed headsets for the ringing in my ears, it would be so loud. It was hard to keep my composure playing and watching them win a big game,” said the Elburn native. “Our band leader, Dr. David Vroman, was the one who kept the composure; otherwise, we all would have lost it.”
Vroman, associate professor of music, added, “You have to pick a philosophy for the band, and we worked very, very hard to establish the band as a support group—one that would cheer for the team, win or lose. This year was extra special because none of the band students had ever been to the NCAA post-season tournament. I was happy that 29 of them had the opportunity to experience the excitement and enthusiasm that goes with the NCAA tournament in Detroit and Oakland. I know from the e-mails I received from past band members, who were here early in my tenure, that these students will long remember these trips. This time we enjoyed 1:30 a.m. pep rallies after the big win in Detroit, hearing other university bands, seeing the sights, and of course, winning some big games.”
Even as supportive as the cheerleaders and band members were, both Bauer and Peterson said that it was the Bradley fans’ devotion that was the most rousing.
“The fans were awesome. They were standing in one section,” said Bauer, “I felt like we led the crowd even more into the game seeing the fans all together.”
Equally as impressive as their game was the team’s gratitude. Despite the demands of exhausting games, major media attention, and frenzied excitement, the cheerleaders said the players never hesitated to thank them for their endless support. Frequently the players would run over to distribute high-fives during the game to thank them personally for all their effort and support.
“During their welcome back speeches, a couple of the teammates thanked the cheerleaders. I think they realized that we were there,” said Bauer. “I just remember them always being so pumped and so grateful.”