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NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Coming To Albany Friday

RoAnn Destito, Dan McCoy, Rich Ensor, Ali Jaques
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
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RoAnn Destito, Dan McCoy, Rich Ensor, Ali Jaques

The Times Union Center is hosting the 2019 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Albany Regional starting tomorrow.  Area officials are gearing up for the games.

Semifinal regional action features top-seeded Louisville and perennial powerhouse UConn joined by western teams UCLA and Oregon State. Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Commissioner Rich Ensor says the games will be a "slam dunk" for Albany.    "This is a national championship here this weekend, and by far, all the media that cover women's basketball nationally are calling this the strongest regional in the Final Four, the road to the Final Four this year. The team that comes out of here will be well-tested. And UConn is coming in in something of a different position than it traditionally had. Its underdog seeded, the number two seed. Louisville, from Kentucky, is in fact, the number one seed. And so it's going to be interesting to see how that plays out."

All four top-seeded teams in Albany are favored to make it to the regional semifinals. A panel of ESPN experts unanimously picked Albany as the "hardest region" when the bracket was released Monday.

Siena women’s basketball head coach Ali Jaques agrees this weekend will be special.   "There's gonna be a young girl that comes to one of these games this weekend and she's gonna have a dream that 'maybe I could do that.' And without having the opportunity to be here that dream might not happen. I was a little girl with a dream. I was blessed enough to win a national championship as a player and coach in two Sweet Sixteens as an assistant coach. I personally know how this feels. And when all of that hard work that you've put in your entire life pays off for that one moment when you win the game by one point, it's a pretty cool feeling that no one can ever take away from you, and that carries on for the rest of your life.  And women's sports and being part of something so much bigger than myself. If I didn't have those moments as a young girl playing against boys and having a little success, I'm not the only one, there's a lot of coaches out there who have gone through that fight and gotten to the point where now we're being recognized. But now's the time to push more. Now's the time to sell out this weekend. Now's the time that when we have four teams that any of them could win a national championship, now's the time that we have to get out and support these young women and this next generation."

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New York State Office of General Services Commissioner RoAnn Destito says women athletes in New York have always served as champions for equity and role models for young girls.   "While I'm not choosing any favorites, I'm encouraging visitors and locals here for the games to enjoy everything this region has to offer. Friday, I hope the visitors will start their NCAA adventure at the Fan Fest here at the Capital Center from 3 to 6:30, and head over to the Times Union Center for the 7 o'clock tip off. On Saturday there will be lots to do, from taking in the local sites, like the Empire State Plaza and the New York State Museum, and some Capitol tours on Saturday. And certainly enjoying all of the local restaurants. On Sunday of course we'll be ready to cheer on the athletes during the exciting final game that will take one of these four teams to the Elite Eight next week. So to the young women competing in this year's tournament, I want to say thank you for your leadership and for setting an example for others. Albany is a great place for women's sports, and I hope that this experience will encourage a return visit in August for the Aurora Games."

Albany County Executive Dan McCoy says the NCAA's presence this weekend will stimulate the local economy, boosting local sales tax revenue, but it's so much more than that.   "We're getting bigger and bigger fan bases, and rightfully so, because it's great basketball. And the women that are out there, they're our future leaders. "

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