The Naperville Central varsity girls basketball team won against Metea Valley on Feb. 8 to start off the 2021-2022, 3-1 season with success, despite challenges due to COVID-19.
“I’m pleased with where we’re at,” girls varsity basketball coach Andy Nussbaum said. “But this season has been a roller coaster like none other.”
In addition to challenges a team might face during a traditional basketball season, the girls have had to adjust to each complication COVID has thrown at them.
“We have players that are injured. We have players that have missed games. We have players that graduated early,” said Nussbaum. “On top of that, we’ve had five games canceled and went almost 13 days without touching a basketball.”
Missing players and game cancellations aren’t the only shifts that are a result of COVID.
“It’s just really difficult to be an athlete with a mask on,” Nussbaum said. “Conditioning has been an issue, not because people don’t care, just because of the situation we’ve been put in with all the parameters.”
A two-minute mask timeout that allows the girls to take their masks off halfway through each quarter, has also changed the game.
“I think mask timeouts really take away the momentum of playing,” Junior and varsity shooting guard Katie Amato, said.
Regardless, the team’s chemistry and motivation have pushed them to excel in every aspect of the game.
“Our team has a lot of natural chemistry so we bond really well together,” Amato said. “I think because of COVID, we’re more motivated to do better than we have before.”
Players have also been given new opportunities due to COVID-19.
“I think there has been an increased recognition that everyone is different and brings a different skill set to the team, so we’re trying to use that in a positive manner,” Nussbaum said. “If one teammate is good at something, but she’s not there, it gives other girls a chance to step up.”
With this, both the team and coaches are optimistic about the rest of the season.
“It’s really exciting to think about how I can work hard for more playing time,” Amato said. “A goal of mine this season is to keep playing my best so I can get a chance at more opportunities.”
The team looks forward to their next game, away on Feb. 16, where they’ll take on Oswego East.