10th Anniversary, #13 Vermont over #4 Syracuse In NCAA Tournament 03/18/05

A year after I graduated from the University of Vermont I was sitting on a couch on Long Island, NY watching the Vermont Catamounts stun the college basketball world by upsetting Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. All week leading up to the game I was bragging to friends and family that Vermont would win.

The Cats' were primed a team destined to write a new story in UVM athletics. They were experienced having made two previous trips to the NCAA Tournament in 2003 and 2004. They had the four previous America East players of the year on their team in T.J. Sorrentine (2001-02) and Taylor Coppenrath (2002-03, 2003-04, 2004-05). Throw in an eccentric head coach in Tom Brennan who if was around in biblical times could have sold the idea to David that he could be defeat Goliath, and you have the makings of something special.

People around college basketball knew that Cats' were for real especially ESPN who featured them in an article for their college basketball preview called "Super Crunchy Nutty Buddies." One of the captions for the article was "If a team grows in the forest will we hear them in March? The Vermont Catamounts just might have the answer." And an answer they did.

ESPN College Basketball Preview 2004-05
Outside of the little community of Burlington, VT no one thought the Catamounts could win. Most sport outlets couldn't make references to Vermont without bringing up Ben & Jerrys or maple syrup. It was just another team on another bracket filled with powerhouses like Duke, North Carolina, and of course Syracuse.

For years the basketball program had been in the shadow of legendary hockey program which nine years earlier made their own run in the NCAA hockey tournament advancing to the Frozen Four behind the play of Tim Thomas, Eric Perrin, and future NHL hall of famer Marty St. Louis. Vermont was a hockey state. But things were about to change.

I knew some of the players on the team having only graduated a year earlier. Some of them were in my classes and others I'd see around campus. While most of them were from out of state, Taylor Coppenrath wasn't. He was a Vermont product from St. Johnsbury Academy who had stayed in state. He was the best player the league which made this situation, this game mean so much more. He was one of us...a Vermonter.

My brother was also a Vermonter and an UVM Alumni who had transplanted to Syracuse, NY. He was a former writer for the University of Vermont student newspaper the "Vermont Cinic" and covered UVM sports for years. He was no longer a Vermont guy, but now a Syracuse guy. The week leading up to the game we exchanged barbs, so it felt good when this happened!

Don't ask me about the details of the game because I honesty don't remember (However, this was the lasting image I'll remember and thanks to technology and YouTube I can watch it over and over).

The Vermont Catamounts had stunned the country and beat Syracuse. For the tight knit community of Vermont it was a big deal. Probably the biggest deal in Vermont sports history.

The Burlington Free Press, March 19, 2005
While the Catamounts celebrated their victory, Syracuse shrugged it off. Many of the Orange players would go to he NBA or return to the "big dance" the next season. For the players and fans of Vermont is was a life changing victory.

By Corey Mansfield

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