Vandal women note milestone, lack of interest

THURSDAY NIGHT'S TROUNCING OF HAWAII, WHICH GAVE IDAHO A MOMENTOUS 500th WIN IN PROGRAM HISTORY, is a victory everyone on the team will savor. It would just be nice if some more fans in the community would actually come out to cheer them on. Thursday's game was reportedly played in front of 350, but that count was probably a bit generous. The team is 9-6, 2-1 WAC, and hoping for support.

Thursday evening the Vandal women's basketball program reached a milestone in what has been a storied 36 years of existence.

Idaho's 72-48 win over Hawai'i in the Cowan Spectrum was the 500th all-time win by the Vandal women who can recount standout achievements, such as a WNIT National Championship during the 1985-86 season under Pat Dobratz to cap a remarkable 54-7 two-year run.

A few years earlier (1978-79 and 1979-80), Idaho was 42-14 under Tara Van Derveer, who is now one of the most successful coaches in the country at Stanford.

"We'll always be a part of Vandal history now, the 500th win," coach Jon Newlee said afterwards. "All these guys on the team should be real proud of that. They were part of the 500."

The Vandals are now 500-497 all time, but only a handful of fans were in the Cowan Spectrum to witness the historic win, and some of the post-game comments underlined the Vandals' disappointment with the lack of attendance. One figure generously estimated 350 were in the building to watch the game, but there appeared to be fewer than that.

The 2010-11 Vandal women have done the bulk of their work on the road this season, playing just five games at home (two in the Spectrum and three in Memorial Gym) and 10 on the road. They are now 9-6 on the year and 2-1 in WAC games. Given the lack of home appearances, a writer asked coach Newlee what he would like people to know about his team.

Newlee did not hesitate. "I want 'em to come out and watch us…I mean, really. The crowds have been pathetic. I don't know what's going on, but…I watched that men's game (against Nevada) on TV with all those people, and all this excitement in here [the Cowan Spectrum]. I feel like our guys are doing a great job and are a fun team to watch. I don't know what's going on, but we need some support. We need the community, students. We're Vandals too, and they need to come out and support our basketball team. Our players are playing hard, and we're successful, and they need to come out and support us."

Senior Yinka Olorunnife was asked the same question. "It's been four years, and I feel like I've always gotten this question: 'What do you want to tell the students?' We keep saying the same thing. We're good every year," she said. "We're improving, and we're having more fun out there. I assume us having fun would make the crowd enjoy it more, and I say the same thing every time. But the students just don't want to come out.

"I don't know why. As coach was saying, they were there cheering for the men yesterday; so I know they enjoy basketball. It's disappointing, especially for us when we come running out to no one clapping -- a few people in the distance clapping for us, but it's embarrassing sometimes," she said. "It's embarrassing when other teams come, especially when we go there and they have huge crowds cheering for them and then they come here and we have absolutely nobody.

"I know it's women's basketball, but we're still Vandals, and if you call yourself a true Vandal you come out regardless," Olorunnife concluded.

The Vandals will be on the road again Thursday traveling to San Jose State but then return to Moscow to play four consecutive home games. If there is ever going to be a big crowd for a Vandal women's game this season it will be that first game next Saturday (January 22) against arch rival Boise State at 4 p.m. Tipoff has been moved up to 4 p.m. because the women will be followed at 7 p.m. by the men's game between the Vandals and Boise State on the same floor.

Last year the BSU at Idaho women's game drew 702.

How many will come out and watch this year?

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