by Tim Smith
As the temperature begins to drop and fall gives way to winter, basketball fans around the globe anticipate the start of their beloved sport. But, as the start date for winter sports draws near, the question still remains: what does it all look like amidst COVID-19? This is a question all teams and leagues must answer, and many have made the decision to cancel their seasons altogether.
But the Cedarville University Lady Jackets are running forward on all cylinders, with a schedule planned, basketballs pumped, and excitement rising. In fact, even with the world in confusion, the preseason for the Lady Jackets seemed pretty normal.
Business as Usual
Although the pandemic has produced uncertainty, coach Kari Hoffman and her team have done their best to approach this season as they always have.
“We have honestly approached this season very similar to other seasons,” said Hoffman. “We have just showed up every day since the first week of September and tried to get better and enjoy the game. Obviously there are a million unknowns, but we have tried to just stay the moment instead of worry about tomorrow.”
The Lady Jackets were able to start prepping for the new season in early September and have done so in a safe fashion while also improving their game. In fact, although the preseason has been longer than normal, the team has seen some positive impacts from this time.
Senior Stevie Johnting said, “We are always encouraging one another on and off the court to help us get through personal challenges and team challenges.”
The longer preseason has also given the Yellow Jackets the opportunity for some bonding time as well.
“We were able to also have a team retreat this year, which allowed us to bond and have a meaningful weekend with one another,” said Johnting.
Consistency On and Off the Court
One of the biggest focus points for the Lady Jackets this off-season has been focusing on consistency, both in the game of basketball and in facing life’s obstacles. On the court, the desired consistency is found in the team’s shooting.
“One of our biggest focuses in the offseason has been shooting,” said Hoffman. “We have spent a lot of time shooting and making sure we can knock down open shots.”
Off the court, though, consistency is still just as key for the Lady Jacket’s success. With facing such unprecedented times, there will be lots of moments of stress and frustration, and the team’s response to these moments will shape the outcome of their season.
Sophomore Paige Garr emphasized this idea, saying, “This season is going to have its ups and downs, and we don’t really know what this season is going to look like. With games being suddenly cancelled, or even if someone on our team happens to test positive, we have to take the good with the bad and be prepared for everything that comes our way.”
They come into the season ranked 3rd in the G-MAC conference, trailing Kentucky Wesleyan and Walsh, so the Yellow Jackets will start off in prime positioning. Finding this consistency on and off the court will bode great success for the Lady Jackets this season, and could even be the deciding factor in a conference title run.
Strength in Numbers
With the prospect of losing teammates to the pandemic at the forefront of everyone’s mind, team depth is such a vital component. Thankfully, for the Lady Jackets, it’s a component that will be one of their biggest strengths this year.
“I think this season our strength will be the amount of depth we have on this team,” said Garr. “There will not be a drop off between starters and bench players.”
Johnting agreed with her teammate, adding that their unity along with their depth makes their team a force to be reckoned with.
“I believe our strength this year is unity,” said Johnting. “All 12 of us have begun to grow a sisterhood for this season that has helped us lift each other up in practices and gel, while playing together. Staying together and playing for one another to the best of our abilities is a strength that I believe will benefit our team on and off the court this year.”
Putting Trust in the Right Place
When it comes to sports in the modern world, there are a lot of unknowns and more questions than there are answers. For many, this causes frustration and chaos. But, the Lady Jackets have used this time to practice putting their trust in God even in times of struggle.
“I feel like our team has a healthy perspective on this season and just trusting God with it,” said Hoffman. “We talk all the time just how lucky we are to be at practice everyday. If anything, these challenges have helped us all be grateful for the opportunities we have been given and to take advantage of each day because you can’t get it back.”
A team’s focus can make or break a season, and this has become abundantly more evident in the COVID world. Johnting believes the Yellow Jackets have responded by taking their focus off of fear and placing their focus outside of themselves.
“Our motto this year is “Be 3” which means be about God, about others, and be transformed,” said Johnting. “We chant this everyday in practice to remind us of our team focus.”
All in all, the Yellow Jackets are ready for a new season. The hardwood has been calling their name since their last season ended abruptly due to the pandemic, and it is just about time to get back on it.
Garr summarized everyone’s feelings towards the new season pretty well.
“ I am very excited and eager to see what this season will bring.”
The Lady Jackets will start the new season on December 3rd with an away game against Ohio Dominican. Their home-opener will come a couple of days later, with an exciting matchup against Lake Erie taking place December 5th in the Callan Athletic Center.
Tim Smith is a junior Biblical Studies major and staff writer for Cedars. He loves football, 3 Musketeers candy and primarily speaking in movie quotes.