UNA women’s basketball back in ASun play

Quin Norris, Sports Editor

UNA Women’s Basketball is back underway with ASun conference play in Flowers Hall as we get back to campus for the spring semester but just like all other athletes in the 2020-21 season it comes with a large hurdle known as Covid-19 that the team has had to work around. 

“I think the biggest challenge is the uncertainty of every day. Fortunately for us we have not had a positive test since the summer time so we have had our full team.” Coach Adrianne Harlow speaking on the challenges that Covid has presented the team along with the way testing has worked for the team, “We test every Tuesday and Thursday following the conference’s rule, and anytime that would come back positive it would change our practices and if it would occur before a game that would change our approach drastically. Along with that you do not know if your games are going to happen. We lost the Stetson game because they had to go into quarantine changing our opponent to Liberty who we were supposed to play in February. However, we have to be able to manage the uncertainty and deal with the changes that come your way.” 

The coaching staff has their mindset on the organizational and procedural challenges that the virus has presented the team, but the challenges are slightly different for the players. As senior Olivia Noah elaborates, “I would say the season is different. The biggest thing is dealing with the disappointment of not being able to play or having games being postponed. Really just not knowing what is coming next. We just must take each day one step at a time. While avoiding the mental hurdles that are affecting not just us but every athlete currently.” Noah as a leader on the team says, “The team has taken an all in this together approach since none of us really have experienced anything like this before.” 

During the early out of conference schedule the girls started off less than ideal going 1-8 against opponents such as Missouri, West Virginia, Purdue and Gonzaga. With their lone win coming against Tarleton State by a score of 72-57. 

When asked why the team scheduled these large out of conference games Coach Harlow stated, “We were not supposed to play Gonzaga. So that one was thrown on us, but we did choose to play the other games. The thought behind that was that this is a free year and we wanted to make sure we got payed for those games. We also did this to give the girls top level talent opponents to play. We have not shied away the last two years but people were not willing to play because they were scared to lose. As far as some of the games that are sure wins, those teams were not playing. So, we just through together the schedule we could.” 

When talking to Noah about the opportunity to play in games with the larger schools she said, “I always love playing the greatest and biggest schools because I love to see what is out there, who is the best and how do we match up to that. Even though our record did not come out to what we would like it to be I think we were challenged and in the long run it will help us. It definitely helped us start conference strong because it gave us the confidence that we can hang with anyone.” 

Despite the slow start out of conference the team had to get ready for the new adapted schedule for in conference games where they would play the same opponent two games in a row in the same stadium. For the Lions that meant opening with two home games against Kennesaw State which they won 67-56 and 75-70 to open with a 2-0 record. Following that series, the team had to travel to Liberty where they lost 86-63 and then lost yet again 77-60. This past weekend the team went on the road again to play against Jacksonville where they picked up two more wins by scores of 75-61 and 57-47 to bring their overall conference record to 4-2 placing them in fourth place in conference standings. 

When asked about the start the girls have had to conference play coach Harlow said, “Starting off with two wins over Kennesaw was huge. There were times in that game where a team could have fooled us because they came back on us in the second game making it tight to the end. Just picking those up makes you feel good especially since we were struggling to get wins. Liberty is good. When you go to their place, they are even better. So, we knew those games were going to be tough. They are defiantly either one or two in the league. However, we know what the top level is and we know that we can beat them so we cannot be satisfied with anything except for giving our opponents anything less with our best.” 

When asked about the importance of the first two wins Noah repeated similar sentiments as her coach saying, “It was huge for us as a team to learn that all nine of us are good enough to be hear. Along with showing the younger girls what it takes to win but also show we are a capable team. Not to mention starting conference strong especially in a season when you never know when your next game is going to come and you want as many wins as you can get going into the conference tournament.” When asked what it was like playing this new style of conference scheduling Noah said, “It is definitely a new aspect of the game for me. I believe that second game is definitely more on the mental aspect of the game than the physical side. Testing us and the coaching staff on our ability to adjust. However, a nice benefit to this is the ability to not miss classes during the week with everything being played on the weekends but that is about it.” 

When asked at the end of her interview what she thought the team could accomplish down the stretch of the conference schedule Olivia Noah said, “I think we can easily be one of the top teams in the conference without a doubt. This team has a bright future and I am beyond proud of these girls for their perseverance and drive and I think there are good things in store for us.” 

The girls are set to play a two-part series in Flowers Hall this weekend against North Florida at 2 PM January 30 and 2 PM January 31.