April 2, 2004
The University of Maine at Fort Kent Lady Bengal basketball team is still on a high after recently returning from their first-ever trip to the National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Division II national championship tournament in Sioux City, Iowa.
With the experience of a lifetime now a fond memory, the players and coaches are reflecting on the individuals and organizations that supported their Cinderella-story season all the way to the Midwest championships.
In addition to the many St. John Valley fans that stood behind the team, an unlikely backer, some 1,300 miles away, has been placed on the list of benefactors.
Tailgator's Restaurant and Pub, a dining establishment in Sioux City, adopted the UMFK women's team during their recent trip to the championship tournament.
As a surprise to the team, owners and staff of the restaurant greeted the Lady Bengals upon their arrival at the airport and supported the team through their game with second ranked Cedarville University of Cedarville, Ohio.
The airport welcome was followed by two free meals at the eatery for all nine team members and four coaches from UMFK attending the tournament, as well as free t-shirts for each of the team members.
"They were our biggest fans," said Lucas Levesque, head coach of the women's team. "Not only did they meet us at the airport and treat us to two wonderful meals at their dining establishment, they supported us by attending our game and the banquet afterwards. They made us feel right at home!"
The warm welcome of Tailgator's owners Mac Dolan and Curtis Behr will not go unrecognized by the UMFK team.
Aside from the UMFK sweatshirts and coasters given to the two business owners, the Lady Bengals recently gathered in the university SportsCenter in the Tailgator's t-shirts to pose for a thank-you photograph that will be forwarded to the restaurant along with a note of appreciation signed by each member of the team and coaching staff.
"We were definitely very impressed and very gracious for everything that they did for us. We are certainly hoping to get back to Sioux City next year, and we would be more than happy to have the Tailgator's crew as our sponsor again," said Levesque.
UMFK fell to the Cedarville University team in the first round of the NAIA national tournament 79-38. It marked the first time a UMFK basketball team ever appeared in the championship.