NEW BRITAIN - Getting this college basketball season off the ground was a far greater challenge than it ever was before due to covid-19 and everyone involved was filled with feelings of stress and anxiety as they spent all summer waiting for their opportunity to take the court.
With the start of the season finally in sight, the Central Connecticut State women’s basketball team was beginning to feel the excitement of returning to the hardwood. That was until a positive coronavirus test from someone within the program brought the preseason to a screeching halt for the Blue Devils, who were forced to cancel their two non-conference games at the top of their schedule and quarantine.
But after battling through the unwanted interruption in its season, CCSU was finally able to start playing Dec. 14 in the first of two road games against St. Francis Brooklyn. And finally getting to play together was a moment no one on the team fully expected to happen until the moment came.
“When we got there and we finally just got onto the court, I went out on the balcony of my hotel room and just got emotional, I started crying,” interim head coach Kerri Reaves said. “[The players] worked so hard to get to that moment, it was nice. We have a large group of veteran players and to see them go through what they’ve gone through and to finally get to where they are right now, I’m just so excited for them.”
That emotion carried right into tipoff for the Blue Devils’ season opener in Brooklyn as a 30-point performance from Ashley McCamus led the team to an 87-72 win. Ashley Berube contributed a double-double and Ashley Forker finished with 17 points in what was their first live contest since March 5.
“It was great getting back on the court,” McCamus said. “You don’t realize how much you miss something until it’s taken away from you. I’m happy that we’re back out there.”
Having to wait until mid-December to play their first game, nearly three weeks after the men’s team started its season only allowed the Blue Devils to suit up four times before winter break. They will enter 2021 with a 2-2 record, splitting each of their series against St. Francis and Fairleigh Dickinson.
CCSU returns to action Jan. 7 at home to start its series against Bryant, a team it lost to twice last season. Bryant currently leads the Northeast Conference with a 4-2 record, winning its only two conference matchups so far. Both of those games were also against St. Francis Brooklyn.
With the season still young, there is plenty of growth expected to come from the Blue Devils as they continue to get comfortable playing within the new offense Reaves implemented. Having more than two weeks off in a time when finding ways to practice without an organized team is difficult, but the players will look to avoid showing any signs of rust when they retake the court. Having a home crowd to play for might give CCSU some additional energy, but simply being at home is an advantage the team will look to capitalize on under circumstances everyone hopes to never play under again.
“This is not the home environment that our freshmen will ever see again,” Reaves said. “Being home is great. The familiarity of the gym and where we are is something that we cherish.”
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org