Memories of the Dance: Kerry Giroux, Rhode Island

KINGSTON, R.I. – They sat watching the television, waiting to see their team appear on the screen.

The tension built as the pairings were announced, spots in the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship getting taken by other programs. The 1995-96 Rhode Island team could only sit and hope, their dreams fixed squarely on the bubble.

Senior Kerry Giroux – a West Warwick native – and the rest of the Rams sat together in the Mackal Fieldhouse Conference Room, awaiting their fate. Despite a 21-7 record that earned the team a top seed in the Atlantic 10 tournament, Rhody had lost to La Salle in the semifinals and was not guaranteed a spot in the dance.

With the first 62 teams announced, things did not look good for Giroux and her teammates. As the final pairing was shown on the television, the room erupted in cheers as the Rams were paired against Oklahoma State for a first-round game, the first NCAA tournament in school history.

“It was so stressful,” Giroux said, recalling the program’s signature moment from 16 years ago. “We were totally on the bubble. We were all wondering, ‘Did we have a shot to get in?’ At the time, the A-10 had been sending two or three teams a year, and we knew George Washington was in. Massachusetts was up there too, and when they got in, we were worried. It was weird sitting there wondering whether or not you had played your last game.

“We were literally the last team to be shown on in the bracket,” Giroux said. “There was an explosion of happiness in the room. We were at the top of Mackal in a packed room, and suddenly it was just a joyful moment.”

It was a moment four years in the making for the five seniors on the squad. Giroux, Dayna Smith, Marcie Byrd, Jayme Yarger and Samantha Herrick had changed the culture in the program, using a run-and-gun style of play that set numerous school records. The year before the group arrived, the Rams had gone 8-20. Over the next four years, they went 11-16, 20-11 and 16-11 before breaking through in the 1995-96 campaign.

Their success earned them a trip to Athens, Ga. While the Rams fell to Oklahoma State, 90-82, the team enjoyed the experience.

“We were in awe of the event the whole time,” Giroux said. “It just felt different than anything else we had ever been through. The thing is, we had a great game plan, and it was effective. (Oklahoma State) just played really well. It was an exciting game.”

When her career ended, Giroux was the school’s all-time leader in free throw percentage (81.5 percent). She also ranked in the top 10 all-time in 3-point field goal percentage, 3-pointers made (70) and assists (223).

Still in Rhode Island, Giroux has been working for Performance Physical Therapy since 2005. She was the lone Rhode Islander on the only team from URI to play in the NCAA tournament.

“I was proud to be from Rhode Island and have the opportunity to wear the Rhode Island uniform,” said Giroux, who will attend this year’s NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball East Regional at the Ryan Center as a fan.

Fans can be part of the action by ordering tickets for the East Regional on GoRhody.com. There are all-session and single-session packages available. Order online or by calling the Ryan Center Box Office at 401.874.7267. Tickets may also be purchased in person at the box office, which is open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

All-Session Ticket Packages (includes all three tournament games)
Adults - $50
Youth/Student - $35
Groups (20 or more) - $40*
*Please call 401.874.7267 for group orders.

Single-Session Ticket Packages (Either the Sweet 16 or the Elite 8)
Adults - $30
Youth/Student - $20
Groups (20 or more) - $25*
*Please call 401.874.7267 for group orders.