Women’s Basketball Remains Focused Despite COVID-19 Challenges

Zach Schiller, Sports Editor

Like most collegiate sports teams at Colgate and around the country, the Women’s Basketball team has faced numerous challenges as they prepare to begin their season.

“The biggest challenge COVID-19 has presented to our team is learning how to deal with the unknown and uncertainty,” said captain and senior guard Keelah Dixon.

Sophomore forward Geddy Rerko echoed the sentiments of her captain.

“I would say the biggest challenge has been the unknown. We work so hard with specific goals and plans in mind and it has been hard to mentally prepare not knowing what things will look like this year.”

In addition to the cloud of uncertainty hanging over the team, the team will also seek to overcome the cancellation of their summer training program.

The biggest challenge COVID-19 has presented Colgate Women’s Basketball with is probably the fact that we could not be on campus over the summer,” said sophomore guard Jenna Paul. “The summer session not only helps us on the court, but also allows us to bond and get closer off the court. Unfortunately, that was taken away from us, along with our team trip to Italy.” 

When adversity strikes in sports, teams have two options. They can either let that adversity derail and defeat them, or they can rise to the challenge and use the challenge to make them a better team. For Colgate Women’s Basketball, there is only one option. Despite being levied with the unprecedented effects of COVID-19, the team has remained steadfast in their commitment to refining their game and building their chemistry to capture the program’s first Patriot League title since 2004.

The key to the success of the team in handling the challenge of COVID-19 has been finding new, creative ways to substitute for missed offseason practices.

“Not having the opportunity to use the facilities allowed us to be creative and find different ways to bond as a team,” said Dixon. Additionally, the team has sought to use their difficult circumstances to sharpen their mental fortitude and learn who they are as a team. “The adverse conditions of COVID-19 taught me so much about our team. We have learned to be resilient, patient and how to adapt. We have become more cognizant of fluctuating circumstances such as practice times, non-conference and conference games shifting that we have learned to take one day at a time.  We can only control the controllables.”

Fellow captain and senior guard Nia Ahart voiced similar sentiments about the team’s mentality.

“We are learning to take one day at a time.  We can only control what we can control and we are staying positive during these times of uncertainty.”

The leadership and message of the captains has spread throughout the team, with the younger players embodying the message of resilience and focus. “We come into practices and work hard to improve and progress everyday,” said Paul. “We have been practicing well, despite what’s going on around us, and I admire our team for our patience.”

If the team’s season happens as scheduled, it will look quite different from years past. The Patriot League has decided to push the start of the season to 2021 and plans to cancel all non-conference games for member teams. This provides yet another obstacle for the Women’s Basketball team, as non-conference games are great ways for teams to build confidence and chemistry before league play begins. Simulating that game experience before conference play this year will be challenging. However, with all their fellow Patriot League competitors in the same boat, the team remains focused on doing what they can to achieve success when they do finally return to the hardwood.

“We are still hopeful to play non-conference games this season and that we get to open on November 28th,” Ahart said. “In the event we do not have a non-conference season, we will shift gears and focus on conference play and improving on last season’s success.”

With regards to last season, the team won the second-most games in program history in Head Coach Bill Cleary’s fourth season and earned the third seed in the Patriot League Tournament. However, the team was unable to carry their regular season success into the postseason and suffered a quarterfinal loss at home to Lehigh. Despite the disappointing loss, and the graduation of four seniors, the team remains committed to building on last season’s success and hopes their resilience in handling COVID-19 will transfer onto the court this season.

“I think with the struggles of COVID-19, our patience as a team and our focus have been tested, and at the end of season, that is super important going into postseason,” said Rerko.

With their regular season success last year, combined with how the team has handled the adverse situations presented by COVID-19, Colgate Women’s Basketball will be a force to be reckoned with when the team returns to the court.