Over 17,000 people crowded into KeyArena in Seattle Tuesday night to witness the Seattle Storm upset the Connecticut Sun in Game 3 of the WNBA finals. There may not have been as many fans rooting for the Sun in New Haven, but the two-year old women’s team has managed to secure some loyal backers here as well.
Some students said they had not heard of the team and others wished that the team had a stronger presence. But, with the support of Yalies and the greater New Haven community, the Sun seem to have made a name for themselves.
After winning the Eastern Conference, the Sun faced defeat in a 74-60 upset, but not without breaking a few WNBA records in the meantime. In Game 2, Nykesha Sales, a forward and a guard for the Sun, set a WNBA finals record for the most points in a game. In the same game, she also scored a record 14 field goals and a record 21 points in one half.
Sharon Robustelli, senior director of WNBA Communications, attributed the success of the Sun not only to the players but also to the supportive fan base.
“Connecticut overall is such an excellent place for women’s basketball where the fan base is already in place,” Robustelli said. “And we had an opportunity to introduce the fan base to another level — the professional level.”
Several people said that the recent success of the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team has probably increased attendance at and support for women’s games in general. Curtis Wilson, assistant coach of the Yale men’s basketball team, agreed that the powerhouse in Connecticut has helped the Sun achieve their success.
“The one thing about the Connecticut Sun is they’re in a state with the best women’s basketball program in college. I think they have two UConn players on their team,” Wilson said.
Morgan Richards, captain of the Yale women’s varsity basketball team, said she was extremely supportive of professional women’s basketball.
“I think pro women’s basketball should be available as a dream for kids,” Richards said. “If it can have longevity, I think it will grow in popularity.”
But despite the Sun’s relatively supportive fan base, some students said that they have not yet heard much about the team or did not care.
“I don’t really feel that connected to it,” Marc Glickman ’05 said. “Maybe because I’m a man, I don’t really relate to it as much.”
Jessica Kimball ’08 thought that the team needed better publicity.
“I’ve been here in Connecticut for a month now, and I haven’t seen any posters or anything,” Kimball said. “In L.A., you see Sparks stuff everywhere.”
Next year the WNBA All-Star game will be held in Connecticut, and Robustelli said she hopes the event will help to increase attendance even more. Some Connecticut residents said they too hoped to see increased support for the team.
“It’s time for women to come up too, because women are just as important as men,” New Haven resident Renee Robinson said.
But the women are certainly making their mark. Robustelli said that the WNBA as a whole has a fan base of about 9,000 people per game on average.
“It took the NBA about 30 years to get where we are today. The NBA was formed in 1946. The WNBA was formed in 1996,” said Robustelli. “It’s a nice stat to sort of put people into perspective.”
Since its creation in 1996, the WNBA has made marked progress, and with teams like the Connecticut Sun, the association looks towards a promising future.
Wilson said he happily imagines taking his daughter to Sun games in the future.
“I can see that’s where it’s going,” Wilson said.
In the meantime, though, several community members agree that the most important thing is simply to get the word out.
“Let more barber shops know about ‘em,” said Matthew Reichbart who owns 1151 Hair by Matthew located at 666 Chapel Street. “Barber shops — that’s a place where people can talk.”