One team, one dream: 15 female Spiders working toward salvaging what is left of 2020 after COVID-19 brought unprecedented chaos into the sports world.
On Aug. 3, the Atlantic 10 Conference announced its plan for the 2020-21 women’s basketball season, which will consist of 16 regular-season games, with teams playing each conference opponent at least once and three opponents twice.
Several weeks before the Aug. 3 statement, the members of the University of Richmond women’s basketball team had already gotten to work, with the anticipation a season would be held despite COVID-19 concerns.
“We got here on July 15 and quarantined for two weeks,” first-year guard Grace Townsend said. “Soon after, we began conditioning Monday through Friday at 8:30 a.m. for about an hour. At the same time, we had an individual practice where each player practiced with one coach for about 30 to 45 minutes several times a week. Just recently, [mid-October], we started full team practices.”
Outside of regularly scheduled practices, each player spends time working on individual skills in preparation for the upcoming season, senior guard Alex Parson mentioned.
“I've been in the gym improving my 3-point shot and developing a good pull-up jumper,” Parson said. “I’ve also been working on being able to finish at the basket since that’s always something I felt I have had to work on.”
Townsend highlighted the importance of stepping up offensively.
“Over the last few months, I have been working on my 3-point consistency and, overall, taking better shots,” Townsend said. “On this team, the way we run our offense I have to really work towards getting my shots in at a higher rate.”
Women’s basketball head coach Aaron Roussell, who is entering his second year in the position, also emphasized the importance of the team’s offense this season.
“With the new group, our offensive set has some intricacy that takes time to learn and hone,” Roussell said. “I think we're going to be a little bit of a smaller team and hard to guard offensively [opposing teams will have difficulty guarding], but we have to make sure we're still good at rebounding defensively.”
With the start of the season approaching, there is one team in particular that several members of the women’s basketball team are excited to face off against: UR’s cross-town rival Virginia Commonwealth University.
“I feel like VCU is always a good game,” Parson said. “Being close in proximity since their campus isn’t too far from ours definitely makes it an interesting ball game. They have a great team and the competition never ceases to disappoint.”
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Roussell agreed that VCU promises a good game.
“Out of our entire conference, I think VCU is one of the strongest teams,” he said. “I expect them to be at the top of our league this year.”
As the season approaches, the possibility of students, families and faculty being permitted to watch home games in person is still undetermined. Although fans are a large part of the game Carpenter said the women’s basketball team would not let fans’ potential absence get in the way of winning games.
“Right now we’re waiting on our conference to release whether or not fans will be permitted to watch us play,” Townsend said. “I think fans are a big motivator and they bring so much energy, but at the end of the day we are the ones who take the court every game and we have the ability to dictate how [games] go.”
Junior guard Aniyah Carpenter talked about the adjustment that will be made if the A-10 Board of Directors decides not to allow fans at games this season.
“If it does come down to that, playing with no one in the stands will definitely be weird at first and we’ll have to make an adjustment,” Carpenter said. “But as the season goes on, we all will get used to it, and we will continue to play every game with the same mindset.”
Roussell discussed his hopes for the future of the team.
“I think we want to be the team that’s being seen,” he said. “We are creating a great team here that has the chance of winning the A-10, and I’m excited to hopefully get that respect from everyone across the league.”
Contact sports writer Anabella Pelaez at email@example.com.
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