Northeastern University second-year student Samantha Bell vividly recalls watching March Madness during her childhood and wondering what it would be like to be on the university pep bands performing during games. Third-year student Anna Wilhem has similar memories of filling out her NCAA tournament brackets, watching the games with her parents, and wishing that one day she’d herself be a member of the cheerleading teams performing during breaks in game action.
Those dreams will become a reality on Thursday when Bell, Wilhelm, and about three dozen of their peers on the Northeastern Spirit Squad—consisting of the Northeastern University Dance Team, Northeastern Cheerleading, and the Northeastern University Pep Band—perform during the Northeastern men’s basketball game at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
“It’s something you dream about, and now we get to do it,” said Wilhelm, who is a Northeastern Cheerleading co-captain.
Six members of both the dance and cheer teams and 29 members of the pep band were selected for the NCAA tournament trip. While the men’s basketball team practiced Wednesday morning on the hardwood, the Spirit Squad readied back at the team hotel for the big day on Thursday. All three will perform in unison during media and coaches’ timeouts, and the dance team will also perform solo at halftime.
The dance and cheer teams practiced for several hours Wednesday morning to hone their routines. Likewise, the pep band put the finishing touches on its routines. The men’s basketball team’s competing in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament in Baltimore and now the NCAA tournament has also provided a much welcomed opportunity for these three teams to travel together, to get to know one another better, and collaborate on their game-day performances. These experiences, they said, will help them build stronger connections for the future as well.
One song the pep band is looking forward to playing Thursday is “No Diggity,” which third-year student Ryan Lucht said is a team favorite and a song they played after the men’s basketball team won the CAA tournament. “The players love to groove out to it,” said Lucht, who plays drums and tambourine.
And it’s almost a given the pep band will rock out “Stacy’s Mom,” which tuba player and third-year student Justin Brown described as Northeastern’s “de facto school song during games.”
“We’ll bring the noise,” Brown said.
Cara Paolino, a co-captain of the cheer team, said it’s been a wonderful experience this season to be part of the Huskies’ successful run. “It’s made us feel part of the team,” she said. In fact, members of all three Spirit Squad teams say they’re receiving congratulations from students, faculty, and staff and even childhood friends they haven’t heard from in years.
“Coach Coen said it during the Selection Sunday event on campus—this is a victory for the entire Northeastern family,” said fifth-year student Nicole Gentilella, co-captain of the dance team. “We feel very honored to be part of this, and we’re very thankful for the opportunity. I’m on cloud nine.”