Get’cha Head in the Game: Women’s Basketball is on the Rise

On April 15 in Brooklyn NY, The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) held their annual draft. This was the most watched WNBA draft of all time, as 2.5 million people tuned in to watch 36 women learn what teams they will be taking their talents to.

Ratings in both women’s college and professional basketball have jumped following the women’s National College Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament that recently took place. NCAA stars, like Caitlin Clark, were eligible for this year’s draft, making it a highly anticipated event.

The growth in popularity of women’s basketball is welcomed, especially among the leading women at Sacred Heart University (SHU).

SHU women’s head basketball coach, Jessica Mannetti, has been involved in the sport for the majority of her life.

Mannetti said, “I started playing when I was in the seventh grade, I think I was twelve years old.”

Mannetti, having been at the helm of SHU women’s basketball since 2013, has had a long standing passion for the sport.

“I knew from the moment I picked up a ball I loved it,” said Mannetti. “It was one of those really incredible feelings where you knew this is what was supposed to be in your life forever.”

For those like Manetti who have passion for the game, this year’s WNBA Draft and women’s NCAA tournament were two experiences that brought on many different emotions.

“The Final Four energy this year was bursting with excitement,” said Mannetti. “There is such elevated exposure and awareness. People love women’s basketball now and it just warms my heart.”

The tournament this year also drew the eyes of many new fans that have never before engaged with women’s basketball. Many other women on SHU’s campus have found love for the sport this year.

Senior and Vice President of Operations of Delta Delta Delta, Jillian Spindel, reflected on her experience as a spectator of this year’s tournament.

“I’ve never been a sports fan, especially women’s sports. Before this year, I’ve never sat down and watched a women’s basketball game,” said Spindel. “With so many eyes on Caitlin Clark this year, it was hard not to watch, it seemed like she flooded all of my social media platforms in the last few weeks.”

SHU’s leading women are not the only ones who have a newfound appreciation for women’s basketball.

Junior Dennis Morely also tuned in to the women’s tournament this year.

“I feel like until this season, women’s sports didn’t have much exposure and that’s why many guys, like myself, never tuned in,” said Morley. “I’ve always been a fan of the men’s tournament, I do brackets and get really invested in March Madness, but with the women’s tournament I felt like I never saw much coverage of it until now.”

The expansive coverage of the women’s tournament this season sparked a new found excitement for the WNBA as well.

The draft, typically held in a small ESPN studio with no audience, was transformed into a red carpet event.

The draft this year was also open for fans to attend, which has never been an option prior to this year.

“Talk about something that’s so fun! Talk about the crowd and the spotlight and all the who’s who of basketball being there,” said Mannetti. “I could’ve never imagined this and now that it’s happening I couldn’t think of anything better.”

Mannetti also added, “We have really benefited from this movement, this excitement, and this energy.”

This overall rise in the love of women’s basketball strikes right at the heart of the Pioneers, propelling the women of Sacred Heart basketball to success.

“Everyone who comes to support us is the best, our student body, professors, administration, everyone is excited about women’s basketball,” said Mannetti. “We have a lot of excitement around our program, our championship game was sold out and it was probably the most exciting experience to ever be a part of.”

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Assistant Sports Editor

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