Trip to Elite 8 inspires Boilermaker pride


Thursday, April 4th, 2019

I woke up Sunday morning knowing I could not be prouder to be a Boilermaker. Despite the devastating loss in the Elite 8 game against the University of Virginia, I knew our men’s basketball team had given it their all. The pride I felt is a clear representation of what it’s like to be a student at Purdue.

On Thursday, our basketball team was going up against number two seed Tennessee in the Sweet Sixteen game of the NCAA Tournament. We’ve made it to the Sweet Sixteen the past three years but have not made it to the Elite 8 since 2000. Although I am a proud Purdue basketball fan, I didn’t think there was a chance we would be winning this game. In fact, last year we were ranked number three in the country for multiple weeks – and we still didn’t make it past the Sweet Sixteen. After losing four of our five starting players as they graduated, I didn’t expect this season to even come close to comparing to last year. And boy, was I wrong.

In my class on Thursday morning, my professor was telling us that if we won against Tennessee, that he would be taking his family to Louisville, Kentucky on Saturday to watch the Elite 8 game. He mentioned that it had been 19 years since Purdue made it that far, and asked us, “when is the next time the game would be within driving distance?” This planted a seed in my head, and I jokingly told my friend that if we win, we should buy tickets and go to the game. I had very little belief that that this would actually happen.

I settled in to watch the game against Tennessee with four of my friends, eating nachos and cheering on our boilers with the rest of campus. At the end of the first half, we were up and playing extremely well. But I knew far too well to get excited just yet – Tennessee is a tough team and I knew they would come into the second half strong. When it neared the end of the game, we were so close, yet so far. Tennessee pushed us into overtime, and I thought that was it. We were going to lose. But as the clock counted down, I got more and more excited. Yelling at the TV with my friends, I was so nervous. And when the final buzzer told me that we had won, I couldn’t contain my excitement.

We were in disbelief as we immediately searched online and found the cheapest tickets we could find – and just like that, we were going to Louisville on Saturday. Saturday afternoon we filed into my car and made the three hour drive south. When we got to the arena, we were in awe of how large it was, and how far up we were sitting. There were so many Purdue fans in the stands, that it practically felt like a home game in Mackey Arena. We sang the Purdue fight song and cheered for our team with the fellow Purdue students, alumni, and fans that were watching with us.

The game was stressful to watch, and I couldn’t believe how well we were playing. Toward the end, I realized we had a fighting chance. My heart broke when UVA scored in the last seconds and pushed us into overtime. It broke again when the buzzer went off and it hit me that we actually lost. But even though I was devastated, I couldn’t be prouder of what our team did.

They made it to the Elite 8 for the first time in 19 years. They gave Virginia, a number one seed and consistently strong team, a tough game even though no one expected them to even be there. They showed what resiliency, hard work, and confidence can do. I reminded myself what an accomplishment it was to get to where they were, even when everyone expected it to be a rough season.

So, I woke up Sunday morning feeling prouder than ever to be a Boilermaker. Seeing how far the Purdue spirit spreads warmed my heart, and I can’t wait to see what we do next year. Ever grateful, ever true, hail Purdue.

Haley Toumaian is a senior studying Marketing and Management with a minor in Psychology. She is a Management Ambassadors and is completing the Entrepreneurship Certificate. After graduation, she will work in marketing analytics at the NPD Group in Los Angeles.

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