MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (WCCO) -- In the crowd of the tens of thousands of fans who made the trip to Minneapolis for the 2022 Women's Final Four is a group of nearly 20 friends who've spent almost two decades making the championship game a yearly experience.
"Back in 2004, I had a student who had played for four years at UConn," said Donna Doherty, who made the trip to Minneapolis from Connecticut. "And I had promised her if they were going to the Final Four, we would go."
The 2004 team not only went to the Final Four, they won it. Doherty had gone to the game with a small group. Word of the experience quickly spread.
"Other friends found out we were going, and they wanted to join," she said.
Prior to the canceled tournament in 2020, the group had been to 16 consecutive Final Fours – taking them to Indianapolis, Cleveland, Tampa, Nashville and more.
"We don't go to Las Vegas," Doherty said. "So, these are all the places where we just have fun and can do whatever we want to do, wherever we want to do it."
The group arrived to Minneapolis days before Friday's semifinal games, and have spent time dining and shopping, even making a trip to Mall of America.
"We have a waiting list," said Bev Moran, one of the group's original members.
This year, the group's team of interest, the UConn Huskies, have a chance to win it all. Even in years where the team doesn't have a chance in the Final Four, Doherty says the trip is worth it to experience the growth of the sport.
"It's the support of women's basketball," she said. "Last night we watched the men's game. There were what, [70,000] people in that? We had 18 [thousand]. People have to understand that women's basketball is just as important, we think it's more important, as men's basketball."
After two years away, the group says they're thrilled to be back together again.
"Life gets in the way when you're at home, and you don't always get in touch. Even though we live near each other, you don't always see each other. And this is the one time that we make time to be together," she said.
"It's like we've never been away," Moran said. "And they're killing me [laughs]!"
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