The team could hardly believe what they were hearing. They had just come off of a win and were lacing up for practice when the bad news hit. Hard.
“Put your shoes away. They've cancelled the tournament.”
No sports team deserves to be turned away from the national tournament after months of hard work and preparation, but the Taylor Women’s basketball team experienced just that.
For seniors, they had played the last game of their college career without knowing, and the whole team was devastated, as the opportunity to be in the coveted position of national champions was stripped away. Compared to all of the hours put in to be in the running for national champions, the suddenness of the news was almost unreal and nothing but unfair.
Despite the disappointment, tears and frustration of the unfortunate turn of events, the team is motivated in a way that only COVID-19 could have channeled such an inner desire to come back. This year’s opponents are not just other competing teams, but the virus that seemed to defeat it all.
With the initial shock behind them, the team is making strides to come back better and stronger. Practices have been dedicated to building up the fairly young team and keeping an open mind toward evaluation. Every new team means a new year to compete, evaluate and execute.
Coach Martinez refuses to use the term “winning” when it comes to coaching; instead, he believes that when his girls compete against each other and self every day at practice and other teams at games, the results will come. Keeping it simple and setting the expectation to be the best on and off the court is how Martinez sees the team succeeding.
One of the many ripple effects of the virus has been the limited fan base allowed at sporting events, and sports at Taylor has been no exception. Both senior Kiara Nieto and junior Merideth Deckard said how the team feeds off of fans’ energy and encouragement; this is a significant change that they will need to compensate for.
Along with less fans and the given of less travel, Coach Martinez has intentionally been taking steps to create practices that avoid contact as much as possible. This includes separating staff and players.
“I try to organize practice where there’s not much contact with staff,” said Martinez.
Thankfully, his voice easily carries across the gym as he instructs from a distance, doing what he can to respect the guidelines and keep the team on the court and everyone on campus.
From that one unexpected turn of events back in March, Nieto and Deckard have learned to live every day to the fullest.
“Time flies,” they both said in separate interviews.
You never know when something will be your last, and this was a lesson the entire team learned.
While they may not be lacing up their shoes during the national tournament, Taylor Women’s Basketball is lacing up shoes and showing up each day to practices and upcoming games to make a memorable season.