The Phoenix Phenomenon: Why national pollsters and fans alike love this team
There’s a lot to love about the UW-Green Bay Phoenix women’s basketball team. There’s the 27-1 regular season record, and the double-digit string of Horizon League championships. Then there’s the top 10 national rankings and the increasing promise of another great postseason run.
“I would expect to see at least Sweet 16, and hoping for more,” said UW-Green Bay alumnus and assistant cheerleading coach Andrew Branam, who rarely misses a Phoenix game, women’s or men’s. “These girls have a lot of talent and they can go far.”
But for all the team’s success, the legions of Phoenix fans, both die-hard and new, say there’s even more to love about the home team. It starts on the court but doesn’t end there, extending to the University, the Green Bay community and beyond.
“It keeps you young,” said longtime fan Ken Treml. “You get to cheer and make noise, have fun — but (it) has to do with players, the team — just the way they play, the way they act, both on and off the court. I think they’re great role models and we enjoy supporting them.”
For many members of the Phoenix faithful, a single game is all it takes to become a lifelong fan.
“And now, we even go on the bus trips,” said retired UW-Green Bay faculty member Candy Conard. “We don’t miss a one! NCAA, we do it all. We are just having so much fun with this team.”
As accomplished in the classroom as they are on the hardwood, the Phoenix women have a longstanding tradition of academic excellence. The team is chock-full of talent, but works long and hard — and together — to make sure that talent translates to success.
“Magical is a good term, but they work hard,” said Richard Spangenberg, a founding member of the Phoenix women’s booster club. “The coaches let you come in and watch practices if you want to and they earned it. … The practices are so intense that they look forward to the games.”
A Phoenix women’s basketball game is a singular experience, to say the least. The stands are packed with die-hard fans who rarely miss a game. From the on-court action to fun between possessions, fans new and old, young and not-so-young, revel in the electric atmosphere. That’s good for the Phoenix — not so good for the opponent du jour.
“They’re loud here, which is great in the kind of atmosphere like that,” Branam said. “It makes it tough — I know a lot of teams, they dread coming to play at green bay because this is a tough atmosphere to win against.”
Indeed, the team’s reputation has spread, earning the Phoenix national attention for its continued success. And as for that other super-successful Green Bay team? It appears it has some stiff competition.
“It’s very much family entertainment,” Conard said. “It’s the best ticket in town. And we have tickets to the Packer games, too, but this is the best ticket in town.”