Throughout the preseason, countless programs have had to be put on hold for the mandatory two weeks due to positive COVID-19 cases within their program. It leads to a loss of momentum as teams try to prepare for the upcoming season and a disconnect in game planning for the opening game.
For Sacred Heart basketball, COVID has forced both the men’s and women’s programs to take things in stride and work around obstacles.
Back on Nov. 6, all of Sacred Heart athletics were paused due to the rising COVID-19 cases both in and around campus. The shutdown led to both basketball programs losing two valuable weeks to their preseason, which will end a week from today.
On Nov. 25, the women’s basketball team will play Fairfield while the men’s team will travel to Rutgers on the same day.
The women’s basketball team returned to the court first, coming back on Nov. 10. While it gives Jessica Mannetti’s group 15 days before their opening game against Fairfield, things have been rushed and crammed into the short amount of time.
“This is our seventh full team practice of the year [as of Nov. 18],” said Mannetti. “Most of which have been within the past week and a half.”
Mannetti added that her team will have 11 full team practices before their opening game next Wednesday. The lack of practices have forced Mannetti to go into “hyperspeed” when teaching her team new offensive and defensive sets on the court.
The lack of practice, connection with teammates, and sacrifice of social interactions are some of the few reasons why Mannetti tries to keep things in perspective while coaching her team.
“You know the stress that they are under,” said Mannetti. “You know that walking into the gym, along with academic stress they are having, they’re having social stress because they are making so many sacrifices, their bodies are fatigued. Just when I want to lose my patience, I tell myself to take a breath and remember there is more going on this year than in the past.”
In a year with so many unpredictable turns, it helps to have all but two players returning from last season’s team.
On the men’s side, experience is something that is not on their side. Anthony Latina’s squad returned to the court on Nov. 17, just eight days before their season-opening game against Rutgers.
Latina brought in nine newcomers, eight freshmen and a JUCO transfer to Fairfield following a mass exodus of transfers, leaving him with just Aaron Clarke as the lone starter from the end of last season’s team.
Given that Wednesday was their second practice after the shutdown, some players were not available due to still needed to fulfill the COVID-19 protocols established by the university.
Other players, according to Latina, have been plagued by injuries, which could lead to the team not having their full complement of players available for next Wednesday’s matchup. With the plethora of newcomers mixed with the lack of time together on the court, there hasn’t been much time to put together a solidified rotation.
One of the biggest worries between both programs as the season begins is the possibility for injuries due to lack of practice and at times quick turnarounds between games.
“There is a level of concern that I have for back to back games,” said Mannetti. “When you play a 40 minute Division I basketball game, you are fighting a war, and your body feels that way the next day. On some level, you expose yourself to way higher risks of injuries when you don’t allow bodies to recover and require the same level of intensity the next day.”