Caroline McGahren is a fourth-year political and social thought major from Charlottesville. On days of UVA men’s basketball games, her phone stays buzzing from a group text that includes her roommate, Caroline Anderson, and a dozen of their classmates.
Who’s going to the game tonight? Who can get there when? Who’s dressing up?
At some point over the last month and a half, a member of the group chat gave it a title: The Vander Gals.
“We coordinate pretty regularly,” McGahren said.
The Vander Gals have arrived at @bjsrestaurants for our Coach’s Corner radio show tonight. pic.twitter.com/ejp8x5bTwU— John Freeman (@JohnFreemanUVA) February 28, 2023
The Vander Gals are a cluster of students who stand together near the band and behind a basket at JPJ. A magnet to both television and in-arena cameras, they are easily recognized by their matching white T-shirts – with, in black Sharpie, “Virginia 5” on the front and “Vander Plas” on the back – white headbands and penciled-on or glued-on mustaches.
This is all for a guy who only arrived on Grounds over the summer and, at 2 p.m. Saturday against the University of Louisville, will play his final home game at JPJ.
“I’ve only been here for one season, but it feels like I’ve been here for a lot longer,” said Vander Plas, a senior transfer from Ohio University averaging over seven points and four rebounds per game for the 13th-ranked Wahoos. “The way the fans and the community have embraced me, it’s been so great. For people to grab on to the mustache and the headband and stuff, it’s been so much fun.”
There are at least two student groups that have made conscious efforts to look like “BVP” this season. Beyond the Vander Gals, there’s a band of fourth-year housemates that, since creating them before UVA’s win over Virginia Tech on Jan. 18, have felt mustaches stuck to a large mirror by the front door.