Supporting our Pirates and forging stronger bonds

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SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — With the Super Bowl done, sports fans in South Orange are likely looking for their next athletic obsession. Why not Seton Hall University basketball?

Continuing its long partnership, the South Orange Village Center Alliance and Seton Hall have joined to create “South Orange Days,” celebrating the close relationship between the village and the university. The first South Orange Day was held Jan. 20 and offered South Orange and Maplewood residents discounted tickets to see the SHU men’s basketball team play Xavier at the Prudential Center in Newark. A second South Orange Day will be held Sunday, Feb. 25, offering discounted tickets to see the SHU women’s basketball team take on DePaul in Walsh Gymnasium on the SHU campus.

If the first South Orange Day is any indication, the second one will be a blast, according to SOVCA Executive Director Bob Zuckerman.

“The SOVCA sold 50 tickets to the men’s game against Xavier, and we probably could have sold more tickets if they were available — but the game was sold out,” he said in a Feb. 5 email to the News-Record. “We had a wonderful pre-game party at South Mountain Tavern and then we all hopped into shuttle buses, courtesy of the South Orange Parking Authority, that took us to the Rock for the game. Everyone had a great time — even though the Pirates lost a tough game — and we are really looking forward to celebrating South Orange Days with the women’s team on Feb. 25 at Walsh Auditorium.”

Village President Sheena Collum is equally excited for the Feb. 25 South Orange Day with the women’s basketball team.

“First of all, this game comes (at the start) of Women’s History Month, which is in March. The talent of women athletes often takes a backseat to their male counterparts and I would especially love to see families bring their daughters to witness these beautiful and strong women display their athleticism,” Collum told the News-Record in a Feb. 5 email. “Second, many of our residents have not been on the Seton Hall campus. The more residents who take advantage of visiting the campus creates more interest and opportunities for future partnerships.”

Pat Lyons, the university’s athletic director, agrees with Collum’s sentiments, lauding the university’s student athletes and all that SHU can offer local families.

“Game days at Walsh Gym are fun for the entire family, and every family in our great community should experience Seton Hall women’s basketball at least once,” Lyons told the News-Record in a Feb. 5 email. “We have a very talented group of student-athletes who work hard each and every day, and they enjoy having the support behind them when they are on the court competing. In addition, Feb. 25 will be a special day because it’s senior day, and we will be honoring our lone senior, JaQuan Jackson, who has been a terrific student-athlete for us and will be playing in her final home game.”

For Lyons, having the community attend SHU games is as much about South Orange residents as about his students, saying that residents coming to games to cheer on SHU teams “absolutely affects our student-athletes positively.”

“We compete in the BIG EAST Conference, one of the toughest in the country, and every game we play in this league is a battle,” he said. “Winning your home games is paramount to succeeding in college basketball, and our student-athletes feed off the energy our fans bring to our home games. Having a packed Walsh Gym cheering on the Pirates sometimes can be the final ingredient needed for our student-athletes to win a big game.”

Attending the games is not just about having a good time though; it is about strengthening the bond between the university and the village.

“I think we have a very positive relationship with the university,” Collum, a Seton Hall University alumna herself, said. “My love for South Orange began when I first arrived here as an incoming freshman and then never left. The university community, particularly the student body, is involved in so many aspects of our civic life — living, working and spending money in our community and volunteering for dozens of initiatives. I’ve also had the privilege of sitting down with interim President Dr. Mary Meehan, who strikes me as a very capable, warm and community-oriented individual who understands the importance of a strong ‘town and gown’ relationship. I’m pleased with the work that has been done to date and look forward to building upon our successes and tackling challenges together.”

And Lyons is on the same page, viewing the university’s relationship with the village as a mutually beneficial bond.

“Our relationship with South Orange Village is thriving,” Lyons said. “We know how important the town-gown relationship is, and we strive to be great neighbors and engage our community with all the wonderful things we are doing here on campus. We especially appreciate working with local businesses; their success helps keep South Orange Village and Seton Hall University flourishing.”

That close tie with local businesses is where the SOVCA comes in, often connecting the university and businesses. South Orange Days is just the latest piece of this work.

“South Orange Days is a great partnership between the Village Center Alliance, the village of South Orange and Seton Hall athletics,” Zuckerman said. “We are looking forward to expanding our partnership in the future as we work towards making broader and deeper connections with the Seton Hall community.”

To celebrate on Feb. 25, all South Orange and Maplewood residents are eligible to purchase $5 tickets to the women’s basketball; these discount tickets can be purchased at the ticket office on game day.

Photos Courtesy of Sheena Collum, Bob Zuckerman and Gabe Rhodes/Seton Hall Athletics