Photo Gallery: Women's basketball banquet

Officially, it's the annual Women's Basketball Awards Banquet. To fans, it's simply "The Banquet," the day on which one season ends, and the next begins. It's a time to dress up, to shed some tears, to laugh, to reflect on the season, to celebrate, and, most of all, to say goodbye to the seniors.

As usual, the banquet was held in the stadium club, and as usual, the room was filled by the announced starting time of 6 p.m. If you arrive fashionably late to this festive event, you'll have trouble finding a seat.

After Charlie "Voice of the Commodores" Mattos welcomed the guests to the banquet, sophomore post Nicole Jules gave the invocation. Then it was time for salad (mesclun greens with bourbon sugar walnuts, feta cheese and roma tomatoes) and photos.

First up were freshman guards Dee Davis and Cherish Stringfield, along with Nicole Jules.

Then Nicole again with junior guard Abi Ramsey and freshman guard Caroline Williams...

...and Abi and Caroline again, this time with freshman guard Katie Antony...

...then Katie with sophomore guard Erica Grimaldi and freshman post Jenn Hall.

At the next table, post Carla Thomas and senior guard Hillary Hager were the first...

...then Hillary and senior post Jenni Benningfield...

...then junior post Ashley Earley, senior post Jutta Korkko, and senior guard Venessa Ferragamo.

Then it was time for the main course -- grilled chicken breast with wild mushroom sauce, asparagus with carrot curls, and garlic mashed potatoes. (Note to self: Next year, take the photo BEFORE you start eating!)

As people were finishing their meals, the highlight film for the season was shown on the big screens in the room.

After the highlights, the team was introduced, starting with the managers, then the players, class by class. Plenty of flash bulbs went off, as fans snapped photos of the assembled team. Charlie quipped afterwards that he thought it was the White House press corps.

Head Coach Melanie Balcomb thanked many people, and even the coach wasn't immune to a few tears as she was speaking. But her ready wit was more often in evidence. After thanking the her bosses, her coaching staff, the managers ("the little people"), the practice guys, her "little village" of support staff, and the band and the cheerleaders, Chuck Thompson and the Commodore Crew, she also thanked Alf, "who got more TV exposure than anyone."

She said that they even got a call from The Alf Show, saying that "they'd give us anything we wanted Alf-wise" - t-shirts, or maybe a call to Carla, in short they wanted the team to know that they had Alf support. Finally, she talked about the seniors, their invaluable leadership this year, and their highly successful careers at Vandy.

Then it was time for awards. The Bedford Hunter Loyalty award went to Hillary Hager. Venessa Ferragamo was given the Chloe Stroop Spirit Award. Carla Thomas received both best defensive player and most improved player. Two Commodore awards were given this year, one to each of the senior captains, Jenni Benningfield and Hillary Hager.

As Assistant Coaches Vicki Picott and Stephanie Norman gave out the awards, Parker Norman provided a little additional entertainment.

Then the lights came on, and as the crew cleaned up, fans, friends,and families lingered taking advantage of their last chance for chatting and photos.

There were glamour shots, like this one with Venessa Ferragamo, Katie Antony, and Jutta Korkko...

...and family shots, like this one of Erica Grimaldi and her mother Mary.

There was even a chance for a photo of Alf, here with Ashley Earley and Jenni Benningfield.

And, finally, one last photo of the seniors. Thanks, Hillary, Jenni, Venessa and Jutta for four wonderful, unforgettable years!

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Photos by Whitney D. and Anna G. for Top Stories