Ariella Scalese ’14: The Crying Lehigh Cheerleader

Five years ago, Lehigh defeated Duke in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. With the five-year anniversary approaching on March 16, Ariella Scalese ’14 took time to reminisce about the day of Lehigh’s historic victory and explain the unique impact the win has had in her life.

Click here to check out the “When Lehigh Beat Duke” oral history project
Such an honor to be part of the “When Lehigh Beat Duke” short documentary #5yearslater #marchmadness #lehigh #duke #shortdocumentary
A post shared by Ariella ☂️Scalese (@ariellascalese) on

Yup…that’s me.

It was March 16, 2012, and I can promise you those are tears of joy. I was flooded with emotions, overwhelmed with excitement, and truly amazed (and proud) that Lehigh beat Duke.

Once the buzzer sounded, everything happened so quickly. Now five years later, it all seems like a blur, but every March, all the details come back to life….and the pictures/GIFs start reappearing.

I looked at the clock then looked at the court, then looked at the clock again and back to the court. That’s how the last few minutes of the game went. C.J. [McCollum ’13] scored the game-winning point, and the place went WILD. All the cheerleaders were jumping up and down, hugging each other, and well….crying. I saw a few cameras across the court, but just assumed they were capturing the players.

Once everything settled down, I grabbed my cell phone to text my family. I kept my phone in my cheer bag for the length of the game and was shocked when I read “70 new messages.” Every text was different, but had one main theme…

“I just saw you on TV!,” followed by this screenshot:

My girlfriends were like “Awww you are so cute!”. Meanwhile, my guy friends (including my brother) were like “I can’t believe you are crying on TV. So embarrassing.”

But I wasn’t embarrassed at all. It is the greatest conversation starter, my go-to “party trick” and a memory I will always remember (and something the internet will NEVER let me forget).

This amazing game put Lehigh on the map. I always wear my LU gear while traveling for this very reason. I LOVE to talk about Lehigh to anyone willing to listen. The conversation starts flowing, one thing leads to another, and before I know it, I have complete strangers googling “Crying Lehigh Cheerleader.” They will do one of two things: 1. Laugh or 2. Say “Wait, I remember watching this game. I totally saw this.”

I like to joke that I was a GIF before GIFs were cool. Millennials, like myself, enjoy using GIFs via text message to describe how something makes them feel. Plenty of my friends have used the “crying cheerleader” GIF in text conversations.

Even the sports director at my previous news station used the GIF in one of his sportscast when Lehigh softball lost to Army.

When your sports guy totally calls you out #cryinglehighcheerleader #lehigh #peopledontforget #marchmadness #ncaatournament

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(But between you and me, I am a little jealous that the “Crying Villanova Piccolo Girl” went viral and ended up on all kinds of talk shows.)

I still get chills when I re-live that game. Current day, I watch the last few minutes on YouTube, hearing the announcer say…

“One of the all-time shockers…Lehigh DEFEATS Duke in the NCAA Basketball Tournament.”

[camera pans to the band, to the team, to the crowd]

“What do you think it’s like right now in Bethlehem, PA?”

[pans to cheerleaders]

The score is displayed on the bottom of the screen. I am jumping up and down with pompoms in hand, wearing my heart on my sleeve. My mom still has the game saved on her DVR and says she’s never going to delete it.

Although being on TV is now under my daily job description, nothing will ever replace my five seconds of fame back in 2012 at the NCAA Tournament, wearing my school name across my chest and cheering on my favorite basketball team.

Forever in the Brown and White,
Ariella Scalese

2 thoughts on “Ariella Scalese ’14: The Crying Lehigh Cheerleader

  1. My husband Dan and I are Lehigh alumni (’73 and ’75). Dan is a professor at Duke and we live in Durham. We are huge Duke basketball fans and I kept taking photos of the TV during the course of the game with the score showing LEHIGH winning! We had such mixed emotions but were so excited for Lehigh – we fully expected Duke to take the lead and win and were THRILLED for Lehigh when the actually BEAT DUKE. What a game! Go Lehigh!

  2. The historic victory of Lehigh against Duke in the first round of NCAA tournament in 2012 has been really loud. But not only its victory has conquered the headline, but also the Lehigh cheer leader, Ariella Scalese. She was caught crying during this awesome winning moment of their team together with her cheer leading members.

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