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April 2014

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Oconomowoc High School grad heading to Texas to see alma mater, Florida Gulf Coast University, play

When Sarah Ardellini went to downtown Milwaukee's Bar Louie last weekend to watch Florida Gulf Coast University play, she was the only person there wearing her school's colors. But by the end of the night when her lesser-known school beat Georgetown, everyone wanted to know where she got that FGCU shirt.

"Everyone wanted my shirt and wanted to know where I got it. I told them that's where I went to school," said Ardellini Thursday afternoon as she finished packing to head to Texas to see her school play University of Florida tomorrow.

Besides being the only person in the bar with FGCU blood in her veins last week, Ardellini said she's pretty sure she's the only Oconomowoc native who so far has attended the school. But she's also pretty sure that may soon change.

FGCU's visibility has exploded after its recent performance. The southern university, which was just established in 1997, is USA Today's Team of the Day Thursday being dubbed "Cinderella Watch." And FGCU today likely has more than just Ardellini and her family and friends rooting for it.

But Ardellini is too excited to watch from afar, she's heading to Arlington to get a piece of the action. "On Sunday before they played San Diego State my dad started talking about going to Texas. I told him I had a few days off work and he shouldn't joke," she said with a laugh. Her dad wasn't joking and they're on their way along with her mother, boyfriend and brother.

Ardellini graduated from FGCU in 2008 earning a bachelor's degree in biology. Ironically, she's now attending Marquette University for her master's degree and will soon become a physician's assistant. She actually is taking a flight back to Green Bay after the game to make sure she's at work on time.

But for now, FGCU is on the brain. Ardellini said she's got older FGCU clothes from her school days, but when looking for something new to wear to Friday's game, she had no luck. "Everything is on back order," she said.

There's no doubt the school of about 15,000 is celebrating heartily. As new university that is still growing, Ardellini said she thinks the main draw is the location.

"My family used to vacation to the Ft. Meyers area and I would always joke I would end up going to college there," and she did. After graduating from Oconomowoc High School in 2004, Ardellini was accepted to several schools, but she wasn't happy until her FGCU acceptance letter came in the mail.

With dorms that overlook the beach and the warm, sunshiny Florida lifestyle, the school's location she said is ideal. And because it's also relatively new and small, it doesn't have the recruiting power of the larger schools. Heck, Sherwood Brown, the Eagle's leading scorer was a walk-on, Ardellini said.

So what does she credit to the team's success?

"Their style of basketball is so different from the rest of the country. Their coach wants them to go out there and play hard, but to appreciate the game for what it is," she said.

The excitement and energy generated from a 15th seed being the first to make the Sweet 16 probably doesn't hurt either.

Watch for photos from Ardellini's trip here and in Tuesday's Living Oconomowoc Focus.

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