South Carolina's Kierra Fletcher, Virginia Tech's Kayana Traylor are March Madness power couple
On the morning of the 2023 SEC championship game, the first thing South Carolina women's basketball point guard Kierra Fletcher did was text her girlfriend Kayana Traylor good luck.
At nearly the same time as Gamecocks tipped off against Tennessee at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville on March 5, Traylor and Virginia Tech women's basketball were hoisting the ACC championship trophy in Greensboro, North Carolina. Fletcher and South Carolina went on to win the SEC title hours later.
"It was crazy, because right after we played I checked the score and I was like, 'Wow, they won,'" Fletcher said. "I called her as soon as I got time, and we were just talking about how crazy it was that both of us won the conference tournament together. It's a really unique experience, and I'm just so proud of her."
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Now, South Carolina and Virginia Tech are the only 1-seeds left in the NCAA Tournament and will both play Elite Eight games Monday with a Final Four berth on the line. If Virginia Tech beats Ohio State in the Seattle 3 region (9 p.m., ESPN) and the Gamecocks take down Maryland (7 p.m., ESPN), Fletcher and Traylor will head to Dallas with a legitimate chance to face each other for the national championship.
It's a scenario the pair have joked about plenty of times, but it's hard for Fletcher to even imagine the conflicting emotions it would bring.
"I feel like she's more nervous about it than I am," Fletcher said with a laugh. "At the end of the day, we're both serious about our sport, so it'll be fun but then after obviously one person will be extremely happy and the other not so much. If the time comes, I think we'll both be locked in. I'll probably try not to even think about it for real."
Traylor, a 5-foot-9 senior guard for the Hokies, first connected with the Gamecocks' starting point guard on social media. They bonded over being from the Midwest — Fletcher is from Michigan and Traylor from Indiana — and have now been together for nearly three years.
The pair were almost teammates this season: Fletcher took a visit to Virginia Tech after entering the transfer portal from Georgia Tech, but she ultimately settled on South Carolina.
"I think Virginia Tech would have been a good option just because it worked out for me, but I just wanted the best for her and that happened to be South Carolina," Traylor said. "It's kind of funny, because if she would have come to Virginia Tech, obviously we would have gotten to experience it together, but at the end of the day, we're both conference champions. We're both 1-seeds, both still playing in the tournament, so it's just it's really exciting."
During the season, Fletcher and Traylor rarely got to watch each other play live because the SEC and ACC both schedule games Thursday and Sunday. Fletcher said she caught a quarter or a half whenever she could, and Traylor regularly goes back to re-watch South Carolina's games in full.
Outside of postgame debriefs, the couple tries to keep basketball out of their day-to-day conversations as much as possible — though that has been particularly challenging during the grind of March Madness.
"Right now it's a lot about basketball, but when it's regular we try to, I wouldn't say leave basketball on the side, but we do try to just be in each other's company," Fletcher said. "(Long distance) is difficult, but we've tried to see each other at least once a month, and it's a little bit easier because we are both in the same position, so we understand each other's schedules."
This article originally appeared on Greenville News: South Carolina, Virginia Tech players are a March Madness power couple