Fulton girls huddle

You could see on the Fulton girls varsity teams’ faces, they were just happy to be in Chicago this last Sunday.

But, wait! Why were they in Chicago, Ill.?

The United Center, home of the Blackhawks and Bulls, open up the court each year and host a high school game. This year, East Dubuque invited Fulton to be their opponent and they immediately accepted.

Sunday, Jan. 6 they made the jaunt to the Windy City and the girls had their expected reactions.

“It’s more of an adrenaline rush,” junior Emily Schipper said. “I couldn’t sleep at all on the way here, I just wanted to go, to play right now.”

“We’re from a town of like 3,000 and we get to come here to Chicago and get to play on this court, it’s so cool” senior Rylee Leitzen said.

It was an early morning for the high school kids: the buses were scheduled to leave at 6 a.m. that morning. That didn’t really matter.

“I was wide awake when my alarm went off because I was so excited for this day,” junior Kylee Sweenie said. “We have all been looking forward to this since we found out.”

The girls were ushered in through security and given a locker room that they were a bit in awe at. From the large wooden lockers to the lounge area, they were taken aback.

Then they got into their black and red and stepped out on the court.

“The court was smaller than I thought it would be and then the stadium was a lot bigger than I thought it would be,” Schipper said.

Warming up with the Bulls emblem under their shoes they felt a little pressure at first. But then they remembered they were playing the Warriors, someone they face every year.

“There were a little bit of nerves, but we’ve played them before,” Leitzen said.

The starters were announced, complete with the classic and recognizable tune, and they were off. The game ended in a loss for the Steamers but they all unanimously agreed that the loss was a little easier to take because of the venue.

Not to mention, the fans. That’s was head coach Mike Menchaca was most excited about at the end of the day. The Steamers had full support from an amazing community.

“When you worry about selling 300 tickets just so you can get there but turn around and sell 525 of them, that’s all you need to know about the community,” Menchaca said. “The experience itself, the kids took to it.”

Seven full charter buses traveled to Chicago in all, including the team, the cheerleaders and the band.

“That was a good feeling to see all of Steamer Nation there supporting us, getting up early and driving all the way to Chicago just to see us play,” Sweenie said.

The girls showered as fast as they could to continue the experience, too. They were ranting about the possibility of a Portillo’s visit and getting excited to watch the Bulls take on the Brooklyn Nets that afternoon.

It definitely is an experience the Steamers will never forget.

“It’s an experience with my team, the first time we’ve been able to do it,” Leitzen said. “Being my senior year—I love playing with these girls—and it’s great to go out with something like this.”

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and it’s pretty cool we can look back and say that we got to play in the Bulls’ stadium,” Sweenie said.