Fans pet University of Connecticut mascot Jonathan, the Husky, during a send-off rally for the Connecticut women's basketball team outside Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn., Tuesday, March 28, 2017, as they prepare to board a bus to depart for the Final Fo
Pat Eaton-Robb
March 28, 2017

STORRS, Conn. (AP) University of Connecticut freshman Larissa Compio was among about 200 fans who braved the drizzle and cold on Tuesday to cheer on the school's women's basketball team as it boarded a bus for a 10th consecutive trip to the Final Four.

The 18-year-old biology major from Washingtonville, New York, said she's been a fan of the women's team since she was a little girl and it was a huge reason she chose to attend the school. Their 111-game winning streak has given the campus, and especially female students, a sense of pride and identity, she said.

''These women are definitely giving an empowerment to all women,'' she said. ''Not bragging, but we did better than the boys this year, so it's such an awesome thing.''

The fans waved towels, chanted, cheered and high-fived the players as they made their way between sets of barricades from Gampel Pavilion to begin the journey to Dallas, where they will play Mississippi State on Friday night.

Junior guard Kia Nurse briefly addressed the crowd before boarding the bus, saying the players were excited to get to Texas and ''finish what we started.''

The undefeated Huskies (36-0), who routed Oregon 90-52 on Monday night in the Bridgeport Region final, are in the national semifinals for an 18th time. They will be trying for the program's 12th national title and fifth in a row.

Coach Geno Auriemma didn't attend this year's send-off, opting instead to meet the team at the airport.

But he told reporters earlier in the day that he's not taking the trip for granted.

''It just seems like it gets harder and harder to believe because it is getting harder and harder to accomplish this,'' he said on a conference call. ''The teams that you have to beat year in and year out are getting better and better.''

But don't tell that to fans such as Angelica Quiroz, a 21-year-old UConn junior, who has watched the Huskies win a title every year she has been in school.

''Nothing can stop us,'' she said. ''I get upset when I'm watching and they're not 20 points up. I may be too demanding. But they are just amazing. I love them.''

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