KOKOMO, Ind. — A sellout crowd packed the stands in the Cougar Gym to cheer for the Indiana University Kokomo women’s basketball team, in its historic debut game Tuesday (November 4).
In the stands, the family of Kiersten Eley, a freshman forward from Fort Wayne, watched intently, with her mother, Tonya, alternating between taking pictures and cheering. She said being part of a brand-new program appealed to their family.
‘’We’re all here to support Kiersten and the team,” Tonya Eley said. “It’s exciting to be here for her first college game, and the team’s first-ever game.”
The team played a hard-fought game against the visiting Ohio Christian University Trailblazers, in front of more than 350 fans.
Coach Whitney Farris said after months of practice and preparation, her team was ready to play.
“The girls have worked hard, and it all comes down to this,” she said. “They’re ready to come out and play the game they all love, and begin making history for this new program. We’re excited.”
Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke cheered the team on from the stands, calling herself the number one fan of both the women’s and men’s teams.
“IU Kokomo couldn’t be more proud than it is tonight,” she said. “What an exciting night tonight, our first women’s basketball game. These girls are primed and ready to go. Coach Farris is going to take us to a winning season, I just know it.”
The women’s volleyball team members were among the loudest cheering for the team, showing their support for their fellow student athletes. Senior Lael Larrick had a unique understanding of the historical moment, because she played in the campus’ first women’s volleyball game four years ago, in the inaugural season of intercollegiate athletics.
“This is a special night, not only for the basketball team, but for the entire athletic program and the campus,” Larrick said. “I’m sure they’re excited, after practicing for such a long time.”
Freshman Kayla Sparling, a nursing major from Wabash, was excited to attend her first athletic event. She said the team adds school spirit to the campus.
“It’s something we can all get behind as students, outside of school,” she said. “I’m excited to see how good they are.”
Deray Boyd, a junior from Marion, has made friends with some of the team members, and looked forward to cheering for them.
“This team is something we can be proud of at IU Kokomo,” he said. “I can’t wait to see what they are going to accomplish this year. I love basketball anyway, and I’m glad we have teams for both men and women now.”
The Lady Cougars, a young team of freshman, with one junior, played a tough game, coming back from a 20-point deficit to within nine points, dropping the game 51-40. For more information on Cougar sports, go to iukcougars.com.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.