Sweet 16 party: FGCU students erupt on campus after NCAA victory

FGCU shower their coach Andy Enfield with water in the team's locker room after defeating San Diego State 81-71 in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center. (Scott McIntyre/Staff)

Photo by SCOTT MCINTYRE // Buy this photo

FGCU shower their coach Andy Enfield with water in the team's locker room after defeating San Diego State 81-71 in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center. (Scott McIntyre/Staff)

FGCU fans celebrate upset win

Eagles beat Aztecs in the third round ...

On the Florida Gulf Coast campus, in the shadow of Alico Arena, several hundreds of students flooded out of dorm rooms, joyously congregating in parking lots after the Eagles victory over San Diego State on Sunday night.

The shouts and honking horns and vuvuzelas bounced off dorm rooms, creating a chorus of Eagle pride. Students piled into pick-up truck beds and gathered in circles, chanting "F-G-C-U," "four more games," "we want Florida," and a couple phrases not suitable for children. When rain occasionally fell, it didn't dampen the party. It incited it.

"It's made my college experience," said junior Ashley Varie, tearing herself away from a swaying embrace with a hoarse Kara McNeely. "I love it here and I wouldn't rather be anywhere else."

The tournament run has elevated school spirit like never before, students said. Teachers urge their pupils to tune in to games. Signs leading into campus bear messages of support. Friends from across the country send messages via social media, inquiring about the school.

”All of us have gotten, 'What's FGCU? Is that a community school?'" said freshman Shaneeka Supal, as she lingered on the edge of a crowd jumping in unison. "It's disrespectful. But now, we're on the map. If feels like our school has gotten respect."

An optimism pervaded the crowd as students clamored for next week's shot at in-state foe Florida, the epitome of a big brother to FGCU's perceived status. While the Gators will surely enter a heavy favorite, students showed no sense of it. And if the Eagles make the Elite Eight, expect another party on the shores of Lake Como.

As freshman Alex Hinton, pausing outside his white Ford pick-up packed with partiers, said: "I can't imagine what it'll be like when we win the next game."

NCAA Tournament

The Florida Gulf Coast men's basketball team was the first 15-seeded team to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. The March Madness run ended in Texas where the Eagles were defeated by the Florida Gators 60-52 on Friday, March 29 in Cowboys Stadium. Join in on the discussion by using the hashtag #ndnfgcu in your Twitter updates and/or Instagram photos.

Get complete coverage of FGCU's road to the NCAA tournament at dunkcitypride.com »

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