Freeport, Ill., is a town of 25,000 people located roughly 30 miles west of Rockford. It’s about 100 miles away from Chicago, so the drive to Toledo takes at least six hours.
And yet Sophie Brunner had to fill roughly 60 requests for tickets for Saturday’s NCAA Division I women’s basketball tournament contest at Savage Arena.
“I think I had 12 family members, and the rest were close family friends,” she said.
Why did Brunner have such a large cheering contingent at her team’s 69-61 win over Vanderbilt? When you consider that she is a freshman on the Arizona State women’s basketball team, traveling six hours sure beats trying to motor roughly 1,800 miles to Tempe, Ariz.
“Sophie comes from a solid community that is committed to her, and she has a lot of friends,” said her mother, Darcy Brunner, who was among the 4,312 fans at Savage Arena.
Brunner came to ASU from Aquin Catholic School, where her graduating class consisted of 27 students. A number of them were in Savage Arena as part of the “Brunner Fan Club,” waving signs and wearing t-shirts with her name and No. 21 on the back.
The trip to Toledo allowed the Brunner family to also connect with Sophie’s older sister Ellen, who is a student manager for the Sun Devils.
Despite the distance, Darcy Brunner said she was happy with her younger daughter’s choice to play basketball at Arizona State.
“I am so grateful she will get the opportunity of a lifetime,” Darcy Brunner said. “Her father [Tom] was sad that she is so far away, but I think that’s a ‘dad’ thing.
“I was confident in the ability of the Arizona State coaches to take care of her, and I was excited for the opportunities she will receive there.”
Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne said, “[It felt as if] the whole town of Freeport was here. She’s obviously very well loved.”
A slightly sheepish Sophie Brunner was quick to add, “They don’t just love me – they love this whole team.”
FOGGIE MEMORY: Vanderbilt’s Christina Foggie probably didn’t enjoy her return to northwest Ohio after her team’s loss to Arizona State.
Foggie finished with 16 points and led the Commodores with six assists and a pair of steals in 39 minutes in an effort that, believe it or not, ended better for her than did her first game played in this area.
That first game was on Dec. 1, 2010, in Foggie’s freshman season at Vanderbilt. In that contest she played 23 minutes and finished with four points, four rebounds and three assists in a 79-68 loss to Bowling Green in the final season of Anderson Arena.
Worse for Foggie, she was knocked unconscious by a screen midway through the second half and had to be taken to Wood County Hospital, where she was diagnosed with a concussion, one of two she suffered that season.