Inside West Virginia women’s basketball’s tour of Italy and Greece

Photo courtesy of WVU Athletics.
Photo courtesy of WVU Athletics. /

Season ticket holder Terry Sigley describes what a foreign tour is like from a fan’s perspective

When Terry Sigley attended her first West Virginia football game as a child, she recalled, “it just felt like being part of a family. … it’s an atmosphere of just delight.”

Years later, Sigley is a season ticket holder for West Virginia football, baseball, and men’s and women’s basketball. She and her husband recently traveled with the women’s basketball team on its foreign tour of Italy and Greece, and she was kind enough to share her experience with High Post Hoops.

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Sigley is a WVU alum and has gone to women’s basketball games on and off for years, but she was not a season ticket holder until four or five years ago. She was drawn to the women’s program for several reasons, including players’ work ethic and determination on the court, their outgoing nature at events for season ticket holders, and her own sense of equality. Watching the team play “gave me just a whole new appreciation for the lack of, I guess, respect that women’s athletics get in college sports,” she explained. “And that bothers me.”

Some athletic departments, including West Virginia’s through its Mountaineer Athletic Club, allow people who have donated a certain amount of money to one of their teams to travel with the team for a game. Sigley and her husband first traveled with the women’s basketball team last season to a game at then-No. 12 Texas. The experience became unforgettable when the Mountaineers upset the Longhorns for the program’s first-ever win in Austin. After the final buzzer sounded, the Sigleys and the rest of the travel party headed to the locker room, where the team doused head coach Mike Carey with water in celebration. “We were standing outside the locker room hearing them screaming,” Sigley shared, “and Terri Howes, [a member of the team’s support staff], had gone in to check on things and comes running out and hides behind the door” to avoid getting wet. Sigley added, “Every time we see [highlights from that game] … I look at my husband like, ‘We were there!’ … being able to be a part of that, and feeling like you were a part of it rather than off to the side … just kind of felt neat.”

West Virginia on its overseas trip. (photo courtesy of West Virginia Athletics.)
West Virginia on its overseas trip. (photo courtesy of West Virginia Athletics.) /

The Sigleys have also traveled with the men’s basketball team during the season, but the trip to Europe with the women’s team was their first foreign tour with a WVU team. The destinations certainly appealed to the Sigleys, as did the idea of traveling with the women’s team again. But Terry also felt a sense of responsibility to support the women’s program: “If we don’t, as donors, support the team, the university is not going to support the team. So we have to so that they get to have this privilege … everything about it felt like it was the right thing to do.” The Sigleys joined four other donors in the Mountaineers’ 31-person travel party, which also included ten players, four coaches, support staff, other university personnel, a representative from the travel company, and a tour guide.

Sigley played basketball growing up, so she had a lot of insight on the Mountaineers’ games against the Dutch and Greek national teams. The Mountaineers had only one post player available due to injuries, and the gym they played in in Italy was not air-conditioned. Despite those challenges, the Mountaineers “just kept pushing and pushing” against a talented and deep Dutch team. Sigley added, “I really was impressed with their heart, their dedication.” Against the Greek team, West Virginia fought back from a double-digit deficit and had a chance to tie the game late, but lost 50-47. “I could not have been more proud of these ladies,” Sigley said. “These girls try. They hustle all the time. There’s never a time they come down [the court] and they’re not executing and working.”

The Mountaineers have six newcomers this season, including several junior-college transfers, and a few of the transfers did not practice much with the Mountaineers before the trip because they were finishing up academic requirements. That meant, as Sigley pointed out, that the trip was essentially the first opportunity for the team to play together. “That’s something that you can kind of tell in their play, that they need to mesh and to figure out who’s going to move when and be able to expect the person to be where they’re going to be,” she said. It didn’t help that one of West Virginia’s most experienced players, redshirt senior guard Tynice Martin, was suspended the day before the Mountaineers flew to Italy and did not make the trip.

However, the team spent most of its time in Europe off the court, sightseeing and learning about the Italian and Greek cultures. Sigley said that all of the sightseeing was “incredible,” but “probably the one that struck me as the most well-preserved … was the Pantheon in Rome, which was just spectacular. And obviously, St. Peter’s Basilica, which … should be one of the seven wonders of the world.” The itinerary also included the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican, and the Colosseum in Italy and the Acropolis and the Parthenon in Greece.

Reflecting on the trip as a whole, Sigley described it similarly to how she described her first football game: “By the end of the tour, everyone’s laughing and … it’s just a big family.” While sightseeing, the adults teased the players for wilting in the 90-degree heat, like any parent might on a hot summer trip. Midway through the trip, the group went to a mall; they split off in all different directions and, upon reconvening, “we [were] all a bunch of kids looking to see what everybody got.” The players especially stuck together, Sigley said: “They went together kind of en masse, whatever activity they went [to] … they’re talking, they’re laughing, they’re sharing pictures or taking pictures of each other, they’re [taking] selfies … there was clearly an intent on the part of both the girls and the staff that that’s what they’re there for.” One of Sigley’s favorite moments was watching the players enjoy themselves during a pizza-making class in Italy. They were videotaping one another and pretending to be on the Food Network. “I was just laughing at them having such a good time,” Sigley said.

That family atmosphere helped Sigley come away from the trip feeling a greater kinship with the women’s basketball program and this year’s team. Having been around West Virginia athletics for most of her life, Sigley said something that stands out about this team is “how much of a sense of community there is and how welcoming they are to everybody who wants to be a part of that community. … I felt very privileged to be able to be a part of it.”

She plans to continue to be part of it for the foreseeable future. “If I’m in town, I don’t miss them,” Sigley said of the four sports in which she holds season tickets. She called the games “a family event,” referencing the fact her husband, her father, and her children and their families all often attend games with her. But perhaps the women’s basketball games this season will be family affairs in another sense, too: cheering on the family that bonded during its summer tour of Italy and Greece.

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