Enthusiasm is growing among sports fans in Vermont following a historic win this weekend by the University of Vermont men's basketball team.
The Catamounts became the first-ever America East squad to rack up a perfect season in conference play, with 16 wins and no losses.
At the UVM Bookstore, T-shirts boasting of the season's performance are flying off the racks, said store director Jay Menninger.
"It's a very hot seller," Menninger said of a T-shirt marking the undefeated season in conference games. "Let's face it — this is an exciting time for UVM and UVM athletics. A 16-0 season is unheard of!"
Junior Trae Bell-Haynes, who is one of the team captains, said the players feel the support from the community.
"Everyone's spirits are really high," Bell-Haynes said.
The excitement across Catamount country has translated into sell-out crowds for recent games. Enthusiasm for the program is perhaps at its highest since 2005's upset win over Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
"The chemistry and the bond we have is a huge part of why we've been good this season," Bell-Haynes said.
Monday, the team collected a host of major awards from the America East conference, including coach of the year for John Becker, rookie of the year for freshman Anthony Lamb, player of the year for Bell-Haynes, defensive player of the year for senior Dre Wills, and sixth man of the year for senior Darren Payen.
However, the team is not resting on its laurels. It still needs three wins to clinch a spot in the NCAA "March Madness" tournament.
"They're very hungry," observed Mike Trimboli, who played for UVM from 2005 to 2009, and who is one of the most-decorated athletes to wear the school's green and gold.
Trimboli said this year's team has a deep bench that's been wearing down opponents. He also noted the team has a young roster, which should keep the Catamounts strong for future seasons.
"You go out each and every night and you've got the biggest target on your back being the top team in the league," Trimboli noted. "They've taken everyone's best shot and come out on top."
Aiming to stay on top, Vermont squares off against Maine in a critical matchup Wednesday night at Patrick Gymnasium on the University of Vermont campus.