March 6, 2007
By David Driver
Sherrie Andress, better known as the "Patriot Lady," showed her Mason pride this past weekend on the streets of downtown Richmond during the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) menís basketball tournament.
Andress wore a dress she bought off E-bay. She had a stuffed bear wrapped around her neck and a floppy hat with notes that said "Letís do it" and "GMU can dunk it."
She also held a conductorís stick, taking a cue, so to speak, from Mason pep band director Michael "Doc Nix" Nickens. "He has a stick. I have mine," said Andress, while standing outside the pub.
Andress, a resident of Arlington, Va., was one of many Mason basketball fans who stopped by the Penny Lane Pub on East Franklin Street in Richmond before the Patriots took the court at the Richmond Coliseum.
"This is the first officially designated 'Mason Nation' gathering spot at the CAA Tournament," noted Christine Clark-Talley, associate vice president for Alumni Affairs, who was at the pub Friday night. The Penny Lane Pub, also popular among European soccer fans, is just a few blocks from the Richmond Coliseum and even closer to the hotel where many Mason fans spent the weekend. The gathering was sponsored by GMUGear.com, owned by Mason alum Mike Ickowitz, BA '02.
Mason fans were rewarded for their trip, as Coach Jim Larranaga and his team defeated James Madison University on Friday, then upset Hofstra University on Saturday and Old Dominion University on Sunday.
That put the Patriots into the CAA title game on Monday night against regular-season champion Virginia Commonwealth University, with the winner gaining an automatic bid to the NCAA Division I tournament.
Andress has been attending games at the Patriot Center for about 10 years. "I used to go off and on to Mason (for games). Now I am a full-blown fan," said Andress, who was attending her third CAA tourney.
Other Mason fans who stopped by the Penny Lane Pub prior to Fridayís game were alum Doug Saine, BA '88, MPA '95, and his young son, Ben.
"It is fun. We are mostly hanging out," said the elder Saine, who went on the road last season to see Mason play in the NCAA tournament in Dayton, Ohio; Washington, D.C.; and Indianapolis.
Saine wore a Mason jersey with No. 1, and his son wore a jersey with No. 22. Mason player Tony Skinn wore No. 1 last season and Lamar Butler wore No. 22.
Sean Kolaskar, a 2006 Mason graduate and Northern Virginia resident, made it to the Penny Lane Pub prior to Masonís game at 8:30 p.m. Friday against JMU.
"I tried to beat traffic early and failed miserably," he said. Kolaskar said he has attended nearly every Patriots postseason game since he enrolled at Mason. Last season, Kolaskar, prior to the CAA tournament, predicted that Mason would advance to the Final Four. When that happened, Kolaskar was featured on a cable television show.
Among those Mason faculty and staff who stopped by the Penny Lane Pub this past weekend were Katie Mirick Thomasson, assistant director of Alumni Affairs; Benn Crandall, associate director of University Services; Barbara Lubar, executive director of Events Management; and Andrew Ruge, associate athletic director, Intercollegiate Athletics. Peter Farrell, president of the Alumni Association, was also there.
The idea to meet at a pub in Richmond came from the Athletics Department. It was a natural follow-up, all agreed, for the first CAA tourney since Masonís Final Four run in 2006.