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Davis, California

Thursday, April 18, 2024

COVID-19 resurgence affects women’s basketball schedule

Four games have been called off so far with the season hanging in the balance

By MARLON ROLON — sports@theaggie.org

In 2020, 13 games were canceled for the women’s basketball program at UC Davis. Due to the pandemic, the season was shortened to 10 Big West Conference games as the women’s team from UC Davis lifted the conference championship. 

Fast forward to 2022 and history seems to be repeating itself with the recent uptick of  COVID-19. So far, only four games have been canceled as of late with the team posting a 6-6 record. 

“Unfortunately, we’re feeling a little like we’re back to last year where we got shut down for quite a bit,” head coach Jennifer Gross said. “It’s challenging, you not finding out a day or two before the game that it’s canceled.” 

The long layoffs have had an effect on the team’s overall performance. After a historic win against Gonzaga on Dec. 19, 2021, the program’s first win ever over the Bulldogs, Davis has not won a game since. However, Davis has had eight days off due to the holiday break. 

“I think our approach is just trying to stay ready and stay flexible knowing that a lot of stuff is out of our control, but we always try to focus on what we can control, which is just still coming to practice and getting better and understanding that we still have a long season ahead of us, and we want to be as prepared as possible and just continue to get better,” Gross said.

They were supposed to play against UC Riverside on Dec. 28, 2021 and against Hawaii on Jan. 1, but those games never came to fruition as they were canceled. The team then dropped two games in a row against conference foes in UC Irvine on Jan. 6 and UC San Diego on Jan. 8. 

 “I think the holidays were challenging, having a bit of a longer break than we normally would and going so long without team practices,” Gross said. “That was a bit challenging. We’re kind of trying to work our way back from that in terms of getting back into game shape and things like that.”

  Games against CSU Bakersfield and Cal Poly scheduled for Jan. 13 and Jan. 15 have also been called off due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols within their respective programs. Playing in between games and games being called off can affect the team’s rhythm. This season had its ups and downs, from snapping a 44 home-game streak to beating the then ranked No. 18 Oregon Ducks on the road. That was the first ranked opponent UC Davis has beaten since moving to Division 1. 

UC Davis continued making history when they rallied from a 17-point deficit to defeat Gonzaga at home. UC Davis has shown flashes of what they’re capable of. However, the pandemic has slowed down their progress. 

“I think the key is to not let it weigh on us,” Gross said. “It’s easy to focus on the negatives of, ‘Oh, we don’t get to play, and everything is getting canceled.’ If you let that weigh you down, it becomes exhausting. The motivation for us is we get to play basketball; we have an awesome team. The team enjoys playing around each other and playing together and so we’re trying to get creative and mix up the practices and do things a little bit differently so it doesn’t get monotonous.”

Adjustments are being made to fix their current issues with Gross implying that they’ve intensified their scrimmages during practices to have the team ready. This UC Davis team holds three seniors and three juniors who have experience winning championships as they look to win their sixth straight conference title.

Their chemistry and rhythm will be fundamental down the stretch if they hope to lift the trophy again with 14 games remaining on the schedule — still plenty of games left to prove why they’re one of the best, if not the best, team in the Big West. Whether or not fans will be allowed back in attendance remains to be seen. 

“You do have to understand that when there is no crowd energy, that energy has to come from somewhere so we have to create our own energy in those situations. That can be an adjustment,” Gross said. 

The Davis fans’ turnout has been great this year as the University Credit Union Center has been a tough place for visiting teams to come in and play. The building has been loud all year long. The upside about this team is that it’s led by Cierra Hall who is having an outstanding season, Sage Stobbart who has been tremendous in the paint defensively, and Evan Turner’s offense. Whether or not fans are allowed back, Davis has the leaders and experience on this team to produce. 

Gross remains hopeful. “When we have the crowd support behind us, there’s nothing like it and that definitely helped fuel our comeback win in the Gonzaga game and I hope that people feel safe and continue coming out to support us,” Gross said.

Written by: Marlon Rolon — sports@theaggie.org


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