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Eagles hit fever pitch in Cape

March 30, 2013
By CHUCK BALLARO - Special to the Breeze , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Unless you've been living in a cave the past week, you know that the Florida Gulf Coast University men's basketball team has had quite a run in the NCAA basketball tournament.

After shocking the No. 2 seed Georgetown last Thursday, the Eagles bounced San Diego State to become the first 15 seed to make it to the Sweet 16.

Nobody is more aware of that than the local student athletes, who have cheered them on as they headed to Dallas and a South Region semifinals game against Florida late Friday.

They say Eagles pride has transferred over to the other sports, the students, and even total strangers.

"It's been awesome, there are so many people on campus that want to come here and last week nobody knew who we were," said Alexis Ross, a freshman softball player who graduated from Ida Baker. "The boys have worked really hard and everyone wants to see them win the whole thing."

"The pride has been literally flying through the roof," said fellow softballer Kayla Ramey, a senior and a North Fort Myers High graduate, who resides in Cape Coral. "We've always had great athletics programs here, and the boys go to the NCAA tournament and make a name for ourselves."

Ross said the success of the men's team has been a big motivator for the softball team, which last year became the first team in FGCU history to win an NCAA tournament game.

"All the sports want to be where they are right now and the team has made a name for all of us," Ross said.

"We were the first team to win an NCAA regional tournament game and we beat the University of Florida," Ramey said. "So, it's great that in the Sweet 16 we can see them against the competition we were against."

As one might expect, the atmosphere around the school this week has been like a zoo, with media outlets, curiosity seekers and fans following the team wherever it goes.

"Now, they're here interviewing the students outside Alico Arena and everywhere," Ross said.

As far as interaction between the athletes, Ramey said it's always been good, although the basketball team has been tough to reach, as you might expect.

"I'm a part of Eagles Council, which is where the leaders of each team meet once a month and give updates on the teams," Ramey said. "This week, with the media here, it's been tough to meet with the basketball players, but I'm happy with all the publicity it's gotten them and the rest of the programs."

The biggest difference is that now, people recognize the athletes wherever they go and are quick with a compliment.

"We were in the airport in Tennessee over the weekend after the boys won, and people were saying, 'Oh, my God. FGCU. Congratulations, you guys are great,'" Ramey said. "Before it was like 'FGCU? What does that stand for?' It's great the boys were able to give us a name."



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