There are several unique little quirks about collegiate sports that make them great. Where else in society is it acceptable to wake up before nine on a Saturday morning and have a beer with the sunrise? In what other sport are there athletes who can go for 40 points in a basketball game on Sunday afternoon only to have to scuttle back to their room and cram for a Monday morning exam? College sports are full of traditions and rituals as well as unrelenting, terrorizing and passionate fans that fill student sections as fast as people de-boarding the Titanic at every sporting venue.
Here at MSU we have Corner Blitz for the football team, where you can find shirtless face painted yahoo’s screaming their lungs out on football Saturday’s even if the team isn’t exactly dominating on the field. Catching a men’s hockey game at Munn Ice Arena just wouldn’t be the same without the Slapshots section acting like Mel Gibson’s army from “Braveheart.” And then there is the fabled Izzone, a pride and joy of MSU and maybe the summa cum laude of fan sections, not to mention one of the most intimidating presences in all of college sports.
But what about that other major sports team that lives in the Breslin Center and finished better than any of the aforementioned teams last season (and yes I did include Mr. Izzo and Co. in that statement)? You know, that team that was a mere half of a basketball away from being crowned the 2004 NCAA champions? Well they too have themselves a group of rowdy, boisterous and unwavering fans who call themselves, SenterCourt.
Formerly known as the “Pack Attack” and then the “X-Factor” while being a part of the Student Alumni Foundation, SenterCourt has entered its second season as the official student section for the women’s basketball team and has no plans of quieting down any time soon.
“The section started a few years back and was part of SAF but they just didn’t have the resources we felt were needed,” said Sarah Haines, an MSU department of basketball operations intern. “Now we are much larger and have a lot more freedom.”
Last season, the Lady Spartans finished an incredible 33-4 behind outstanding performances from Associated Press All-Americans Kristen Haynie, Lindsay Bowen and Liz Shimek. They were both Big Ten regular season and conference champions and the runner up in the national tournament. The team enjoyed the best season in the program’s history and the SenterCourt gang steadily grew and by season’s end were leading cheers from near sellout crowds in the Breslin Center, something never before seen in the women’s basketball program.
SenterCourt coordinator and MSU kinesiology sophomore Keleigh Knapp remembers rushing out onto the court after the team clinched a Big Ten title and standing side by side with them covered in confetti as they hoisted the trophy.
“The best moment of the season was probably the Ohio State game where they came in ranked high and we almost had a sellout crowd,” special education junior and SenterCourt coordinator Elena Strom said.
The 14,066 people in attendance that day far exceeded the usual 6,500-7,000 person crowds the team usually draws, proving perhaps once and for all that the women’s team had officially arrived. And judging by the frenzied crowd, SenterCourt had also arrived and was ready to become a household name in the MSU culture.
But it wasn’t always like that. In past basketball seasons, before SenterCourt, when the student section was ran by SAF the attitude and excitement just wasn’t there.
“It was kind of dull and kind of just like, blah,” MSU Director of Women’s Basketball Operations Kate Senger said. “The section used to not even be full and the crowds just never got into it.”
Senger explained that the reason for the lack of excitment wasn’t necessarily because the section was ran by SAF, but just because basically it wasn’t organized the way it maybe should have been at the time.
“It is a lot easier for us to monitor now and it goes in the direction that we want it to,” Senger said. Senger also explained that the program wouldn’t even mind seeing the section go back to the students and SAF in the near future.
“It has been tough over the years to get fans to rally for this, so hopefully we can use this momentum we’ve got and maybe eventually give the section back to the students and SAF so they can run it,” Senger said. “But obviously we love to have it here with us.”
That momentum that is building doesn’t just stop at MSU home games however. Senger explained that there are often times where the group will travel and support the squad as they venture into enemy territory.
“Sometimes they will make the trips to a close game, like Michigan or Ohio State which helps a lot,” Senger said. “We provide them with a bus and encourage them to come along. It says a lot because these are young kids with little transportation means and a lot to do.”
For the time being however, the main goals of SenterCourt are simple. Be a known presence each and every game, and continue to increase in size.
\”We are always growing and hope to continue to grow,” advertising sophomore and SenterCourt coordinator Patricia Kota said. “By the end of last season we had 65 people in the group and our goal for this year is to end with around 100.”
Kota explained that even though SenterCourt basically sits in the shadows of the Izzone as a student section on campus, that doesn’t mean they aren’t just as loud and crazy.
“Basically we want to make the group as rowdy and noisy as possible,” Kota said. “The Izzone is awesome there is no doubt about it, but we think we can have that too.”
Perhaps the underlying factor holding SenterCourt back from immediately reaching the size and prestige of the Izzone is the same factor that has kept women’s sports on the proverbial back-burner in this country: a lower interest level in all women’s sports than in men’s.“Women’s sports just doesn’t get as much respect as Men’s in this country,” Knapp said. “We’re just as successful and can do just as many great things.”
But SenterCourt doesn’t plan on resigning to that fate or fading away any time soon. Especially with the expectation of another great season ahead, the women’s basketball team will be earning more well-deserved respect with each basket.
Just having student sections in college sports make them so unique. When else in life is it so fun to get together with peers who have a unified interest of screaming-until-you-can’t even-feel-the-back-of-your-throat, all to help your team score one more basket down the stretch in crunch time? In student sections like SenterCourt, it’s our job to make the home court a place where the opposition can barely collect their thoughts let alone ignore the ever present crowd. All in the name of school spirit.
“I would like to think that it gives us a big advantage out there on the court every home game,” Senger said. “It is important for a lot of morale issues with the team getting support from their fellow students, and they definitely notice them out their with their shirts and signs and hear them screaming. It is just cool to see the excitement out there.”
Not only do they give their team an advantage out on the court every game, but SenterCourt also does its part in helping the community and more notably the Mid Michigan Children’s Initiative.
“Whenever a team player hits a three, SenterCourt donates ten cents to the MMCI,” Kota said. “So for every three you will hear a ‘Cha-Ching’ from the section.
The women\’s basketball team compassion for their community extends to its camaraderie shared between those who lace up their sneakers and the fans who cheer them on through the good and bad.
“We’re all Spartans here when it comes down to it,” Haines said. “We share an identity and a passion for the game. I think the women’s team is much more accessible and we get to know them better, it is a very family-like atmosphere.”
And that idea of having something in common with the athletes is really what separates college sports apart from anything else. For those screaming SenterCourt members, this is no different. Even though they may be on posters and signing autographs after a big game, they too will have to go back to their room and study for an upcoming test.
“We relate so much more to them than we would any other professional athletes,” Knapp said.
So if standing in ankle deep confetti celebrating a Big Ten championship this March sounds like something enticing, you might want to come down and join the gang in SenterCourt and be part of something big. Just make sure to bring a big lung capacity.

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