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It was the ultimate suggestion. And it blossomed into the ultimate road trip.
After the Harvard-UNC pairing in the NCAA women's basketball tournament was announced on March 8, sophomore Karen Rice proposed a Crimson expedition to Chapel Hill.
"It sounded like one of those farfetched ideas that you never get around to doing," said sophomore Kyle Walsh, Rice's roommate in Cabot House. "But we kept talking about it, and things came together."
As added incentive, sophomore Kelly Kinneen, who is Walsh and Rice's roommate, is a guard on the team.
"I didn't have to think twice about it," Walsh said. "That team is so great. I had no negative feelings [about the pairing of top-seeded UNC with 16th-seeded Harvard]."
On midnight last Thursday, Walsh and roommate Alice Noble, together with juniors Howard Hechler, Greg Philipp, and Adam Tyner (all roommates in Cabot), left Cabot in Noble's '84 Toyota. "It was a little cramped, but it worked," Philipp said.
The group received a parting gift from the Cabot dining hall: two large boxes of food.
"We're really grateful," Philipp said.
"When Greg said that he was going to ask for some food, I thought he would come back with some fruit and a couple of bagels," Walsh said. "But the boxes were great. That's what you get for living in a great house like Cabot. Our dining hall is the best."
The group switched drivers quite frequently, and made sure that the person in the passenger seat was awake.
A CD player enlivened the voyage. Passing through New Jersey, the group played Bruce Springsteen. Other selections included Indigo Girls and the Top Gun soundtrack.
The group composed its own song after stopping in Washington DC to visit Walsh's Aunt Nan, who was not home. Sitting on the curb outside Aunt Nan's house, the group wrote a fictional country-western song whose lyrics included, "There's shit in my peanut butter." A debate over whether to use a knife or spoon to spread the peanut butter on the peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches they were eating (courtesy of HDS) inspired the group's songwriting effort. "At that point, we had not been sleeping a lot," Philipp said.
Rain accompanied the group throughout the 14-hour trip to Chapel Hill.
After reaching Chapel Hill, the group rented a hotel room in Raleigh and attended a team-sponsored party at the Omni. "It was another sign of how much this team was close to its fans," Philipp said.
Sophomore Suzie Miller, who plays guard and forward, saw the group in the parking lot at Chapel Hill. "I was so psyched to see them," Miller, also a Quad resident (Currier), said. "They looked exhausted. That they made the trip was just amazing."
The group sat behind the Crimson bench in Harvard's 78-53 loss to the Tar Heels on March 14. "We wanted to keep [the cheering] pretty friendly, as we were significantly outnumbered," Philipp said.
Tyner said that UNC was a solid team. "It wasn't an accident that they were a number one seed," he said.
However, a 6-0 Harvard run at the outset of the second half raised Crimson enthusiasm. "In the first couple of minutes, they came out flying," Walsh said. "It was totally exciting. The whole crowd was going nuts. Alice still doesn't have her voice."
Philipp's voice is only coming back now.
"It was the coolest thing to come out and see those five in the stands like student representatives," Miller said.
"Every time I turned around, they were screaming and starting cheers," junior Sarah Russell, another Cabot resident, said. "Their driving to see the game showed me that we were recognized by the school community as something special. It also showed me that in my house people appreciated women's athletics."
After the game, the team came out onto the floor and talked to fans in the stands.
"They're so gracious," Philipp said. "They always thank the fans. It was pretty emotional when the seniors came out."
On the way back, Philipp and Walsh went to an Ani DiFranco concert.
The return trip lasted 13 hours and was much drier. "It was nice to be somewhere warm," Tyner, who is from Florida, said.
Philipp said that he would "absolutely do it again.
"I'd do it in a heartbeat. I'm looking forward to next year."
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