Hoop fans return to Times Union Center

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ALBANY – Reunited and it feels so good. For the first time in 20 months, student athletes in uniform were back together with the student body in the same gymnasium.

"It’s a blessing we were able to play this game and to have fans," said Carm Marciariello, Siena’s head coach. "We’re just thankful for the opportunity, and I hope our fans are thankful they get to watch these guys play."

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the reality of college sports over the past few seasons was that you either played without fans or you didn’t play at all.

"Last year I didn’t really lose my voice much," said College of Saint Rose Coach Mike Perno. "Today, after forty minutes of basketball, I feel like I lost my voice."

Division I Siena College hosted cross-town Division II rival Saint Rose on Monday night in a pre-season exhibition. All fans coming through the turnstiles had to provide proof of vaccination or else a recent negative COVID-19 test result.

"I think having fans present for all sports games like basketball makes them feel the support that they have and to cheer them on if they’re doing bad or anything like that," said Siena sophomore Abigail Yereance.

"I think it makes a huge difference whether we’re here or not because I personally always play better when I have fans watching," stated Ilana Numssen, also a Siena sophomore.

"I feel it is such like a blessing to be here after COVID this is our first game back and everybody is so happy to be here, and I think the players really appreciate it," stated Kimberly Gonzalez, a Siena sophomore.

In a sport know for a student section, boisterous fans, and loud chants that typically makes for a difficult environment for the road team, nothing compares to a crowded arena.

"We’ve been following them for so long and that break, it was hard to take," Said Brian Miner, of Clifton Park, "It’s just a relief to get back out here. We really do love it."

"Undeniably, you’re uplifted," stated Chris Gibson, Siena College president, "It’s the same for any performer, right? These guys are performers. They’re high-performing athletes, and they love to play here."

"You could definitely feel the difference," said Shane O’Dell, a Saint Rose forward.