Piccolo Girl was among the last to know she’d become “Piccolo Girl.”
At some point while Roxanne Chalifoux was playing in the Villanova band that day, a year ago, her phone died. It was just as well. Villanova had just been upset in its second NCAA tournament game. Chalifoux was crushed.
Afterward, she was commiserating over dinner when highlights of the game flickered on. She didn’t want to watch.
Then someone shouted, “That’s you on TV!”
And there she was, on “SportsCenter.” Chalifoux was dutifully playing the piccolo as tears welled and rolled down her cheeks. The camera lingered, Chalifoux tightly framed.
Chalifoux had gone viral. She was all over Twitter. She was on highlight shows. She was Piccolo Girl.
Chalifoux would become one of the lasting images of last season’s tournament. She appeared in “One Shining Moment,” the video played after the championship game.
Twitter users photoshopped her into increasingly bizarre situations. There is Chalifoux, playing “My Heart Will Go On” in the movie “Titanic.” In another, Chalifoux is crying as J.K. Simmons, in the movie “Whiplash,” screams “Not my tempo!”
“The whole thing was always just a little uncomfortable,” Chalifoux said earlier this week. “I was definitely overwhelmed. It wasn’t really something I wanted to happen just because I’m a pretty private person in general.”
Now, Chalifoux has a chance at redemption. Villanova has stormed to the Final Four. And on Saturday, Chalifoux will be there to watch.
She still isn’t sure why she was the subject of so much fascination. She was emotional because she was a senior, and “it was just hard knowing all of those memories were over,” she said.
She said most of the online comments were positive. The few negative ones she avoided.
Her viral fame came with perks. Jimmy Fallon invited her to “The Tonight Show.” She played the piccolo with the Roots. Fallon gave her a gift basket.
“You’ll get ’em next year,” he told her.
The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum contacted her about making a commemorative bobblehead. She turned it into a fundraiser for the Villanova band.
The band got $2,000, and “I have my own bobblehead,” Chalifoux said. Which I never thought would happen.”
Then, life went on.
“I still went to my classes, I still had to finish my degree, and I had a lot of work to do,” said Chalifoux, who was a biology major and a psychology minor.
Chalifoux now attends the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, where she watches Villanova games when she has time. (And, yes, where students study tear production.)
People still tweet at Chalifoux. She doesn’t respond. Other involuntary viral stars have taken her place. This season, a saxophonist in the Kentucky band was shown on the broadcast crying and hugging her instrument.
Chalifoux said her friends and family helped keep the experience positive. The team was supportive, too. Forward JayVaughn Pinkston, now playing in the NBA Development League, found the situation hilarious, she said.
Daniel Ochefu, a senior forward this season, remembers coming across Chalifoux on campus. Seeing her reaction had made him sad. So he struck up a conversation.
“‘I know you,’” he said, recalling the encounter. “‘You’re Piccolo Girl. I gotta meet you.’ So I met her. Took a selfie and stuff.”
Ochefu hopes Villanova will move Chalifoux to tears again, “but hopefully this year it will be for a different reason,” he said.
But the piccolo, Chalifoux said, won’t make a return.
“No instruments,” Chalifoux said. “Nope, I’m done.”
Follow Zach Helfand on Twitter: @zhelfand.