The Navy Midshipmen women's basketball team played Tennessee for the first time ever Sunday, but the teams have long held respect for one another.
Navy took the floor for warm-ups before Sunday's game at Thompson-Boling Arena wearing purple "We Back Pat" shirts in honor of legendary Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt. The crowd cheered as they took the court.
"For us, it's a woman that we all have a lot of respect for and admire," Navy basketball coach Stephanie Pemper said. "It's a cause that's really important, and I think it's only going to continue to get more important in our society, and in particularly, with women. We want to show support for that and the respect we have for the program, for her and the foundation."
Navy basketball players were fully on board with the shirts.
"Growing up as a kid, I used to always watch Tennessee," Navy forward Ashanti Kennedy, who led the team with 16 points Sunday, said. "It was an honor to be here and play against them and wear those shirts. What it embodies is so special to us."
Before the game, Lady Vols players gave the Navy players miniature commemorative basketballs that said "Thank you for your service" on them.
Tennessee coach Holly Warlick, who played for Summitt, said the shirts were a nice touch. She said her team has all the respect in the world for the military, in turn.
"We want to have that dedication, that honor, that passion, that purpose of what you do, and I think the military does that, and so we’re trying to get our kids to do that as well," Warlick said. "That’s why we got the freedom we do. Great thing in their honoring Pat, and we’re honoring them, and that’s how it should be.”
Warlick said it's important to her to recognize the military.
"There’s so many crazy things going on right now, and we all got to pull together, and I think it starts with our military," Warlick said. "It’s there to help us and to make sure that...I can be a female coach in women’s basketball, and these young ladies, black or white, can go out and perform, and they have that opportunity."