— 7 Eyewitness News (@WKBW) November 19, 2014
The Niagara Purple Eagles women’s basketball team lost 70-54 at Pittsburgh Monday night to drop their season record to 0-2, and that defeat has probably been the best part of their week so far. After the game, Niagara boarded its bus to come home from Pennsylvania, but the trip lasted quite a bit longer than they had expected. Due to the many feet of snow that fell in upstate New York during this week’s incredible snowstorm, the Purple Eagles traveling party was stranded on the highway toward the tail-end of their journey, less than an hour from their campus. The plight of Niagara’s players and coaches quickly gained national attention, as the snowbound team told its story to multiple media outlets and begged for rescue. Many of the people on the bus were sending out updates with the hashtag #NUWBBstrandedonbus, while those in the greater Buffalo area tried to get to that part of the road with snowplows to free the Eagles. Head Coach Kendra Faustin, whose one-year-old son was among the 26 people on board the bus, told the Associated Press how the team was surviving while marooned on the highway for nearly 30 hours. According to Faustin, the group was rationing six bottles of water and munching on what little food was available (granola bars and other snacks). From all accounts, the players and coaches managed to keep their sense of humor through the ordeal, posting photos and even jokes to Twitter as Tuesday dragged on to Wednesday. (One example from Faustin’s personal account: “I wonder if Jimmy Johns delivers freaky fast to I-90?”
Despite the lighthearted attempts at humor, the situation was obviously serious. Faustin told ESPN that her team was actually using snow to make drinking water as the hours ticked by. The stories were nearly unimaginable, but the Purple Eagles persevered and kept their spirits high as the world watched and followed along through social media and other news coverage. Assistant Coach Corinne Jones told NECN.com that the team actually invited another stranded motorist on board the bus to partake in the heat and relative comfort for much of the day Tuesday, pointing out that many people on the New York State Thruway had it worse even than they did.
Thankfully, this story has a happy ending for the Purple Eagles team: The more than two dozen people in Niagara’s group were finally rescued early Wednesday morning, as snow plows arrived on the scene to help. And, of course, the most important news is that everyone on board survived the nightmare experience and is currently healthy, safe, and somewhere much more comfortable.
Obviously, sports pales in comparison to real life, and this is just one example of that. Still, lessons learned in sports (such as how to never give up and rally around your teammates, among many others) can pay off when life gets hard. Although you might not be a diehard women’s college basketball fan, you might not have ever heard of Niagara University, and you might not have known the team’s mascot before this week, the Purple Eagles will be an easy team to support and root for this year. Niagara gained thousands of fans in the last 48 hours, and we’re sure that we’re not alone in cheering for their success as the 2014-2015 season continues. A selfless, determined, battle-tested team that’s overcome adversity and stayed positive through the process is one that any supporter can be proud of, including this writer, a brand-new Niagara Purple Eagles fan.
— Corinne Jones (@NUCoachJones) November 18, 2014