Sporting wine-and-gold uniforms complemented by all-white kicks, the Cleveland Cavaliers aren't the only athletes igniting the hardwood inside Quicken Loans Arena. The newest members of the Cavalier Girls are also lacing up for the 2013-14 NBA season.
Every year, nearly 70 hopeful dancers audition for a spot on the Cavalier Girls' roster. After wrapping up two weeks of intense workouts, dance sessions and modeling shoots, the girls received performance reviews, and judges narrowed the pool of contestants down to 30.
When the final votes were counted, three of the final 18 that make up the team were Trumbull County residents - Megan Hayes, Tiffany Mast and Baylee Domer.
aPhotos special to the Tribune Chronicle
The Cavalier Girls keep the crowds entertained at Cleveland Cavaliers basketball games. This year, three Trumbull County residents will be joining the Girls — Megan Hayes, Tiffany Mast and Baylee Domer.
This year, fans cast votes for their favorite finalists on Cavaliers.com. On the night of the live audition finale at Shooters on the Waters, fans were invited to witness the girls show off their freestyle dance moves and model their favorite swimsuits in a last attempt to impress the judges.
"We look for girls who will be able to engage with fans," said Jami Taylor-Gale, manager of entertainment teams for the Cavs. "We want them to have a strong performance background, but personality is the most important trait we look for."
Hayes and Mast, both 20, grew up practicing dance together for more than 15 years at the Studio L Dance Centre in Warren. Mast decided to audition for the Cavalier Girls after seeing Hayes' success in her first season with the Cavs.
Both Hayes and Mast are Champion High School graduates, while Domer is a recent graduate from Chalker High School.
"It's great having (Tiffany and Baylee) around," Hayes said. "They understand the town I grew up in. All the other girls are from big cities, so it's really nice having that small town connection with them. The experience has been rigorous and time-consuming, but it has definitely been the best experience of my life."
Domer, 18, also trained at Studio L and has known Mast through dance competitions. Domer said she is excited to see more Cavaliers basketball games and says that all 18 team members have become "very close" and already feel "like a big family."
Domer, Mast and Hayes are optimistic about the season and the Cavs' chances of a good year. Each Valley native agreed that their favorite moments during Cavs games are entertaining their youngest audience members.
"At the end of last season, one little boy made a handmade card with drawings of the girls," Hayes said. "He wrote a message thanking me for being so kind. It was a really powerful moment and so nice of him. It made me feel like I'm in this for the right reasons."
Before coaching the Cavalier Girls, Taylor-Gale was also a member of the Cavaliers dance team. She said she's familiar with the amount of work the team calls upon each dancer.
"Since I've been in their position, I know it requires a ton of dedication and passion to make progress. Everything is constantly changing for them," says Taylor-Gale.
The Cavalier Girls' season officially began Friday when the Cavs faced the Charlotte Bobcats. Taylor-Gale hopes her dancers acquire new levels of confidence under her tutelage, but most importantly, she just wants them to have fun.
"If they feel like stronger women when they leave, then I've ultimately done my job," Taylor-Gale said.