BY JESSALYN KIRCHHOFF
In a year full of postponements and cancellations, the Fort Hays State University women’s basketball will still take part in winter athletics.
The Tigers began practice on Oct. 15 and are preparing for their first game of the 2020-2021 season against Washburn on Nov. 19. Tony Hobson, head coach of the Tigers, said the extended practice to start the season has been good.
“The first week of practice has went well,” Hobson said. “We have more practice dates before our first game this year because of the cut-down season and a later start date. We are moving at a good pace and will try to be ready for our first game.”
Spectators can expect to see a few of their favorite returning players this season as well as some new faces. FHSU returns seniors Jaden Hobbs, Whitney Randall and Madison Mittie, who Hobson says will all play key roles. Hobson also mentioned junior Cydney Bergmann as another Tiger who played a big role for the team a season ago.
Other returners on the roster include juniors Hailey Walker and Cassidy Haufler and sophomores Lauryn Reither and Allison McFarren.
However, it is the “fresh” faces FHSU brings to the court that will make the Tigers worth watching this season. Hobson and his staff recruited six freshmen to fill the gap of last year’s talented senior class — Sydney Golladay, Carly Thompson, Katie Wagner, Emma Ruddle, Olivia Hollenbeck, and Jessie Sallach.
“We have six freshmen on the team this year. All of them were accomplished high school players,” Hobson said. “We are looking for big contributions from them this year too.”
COVID may have extended practices before the team’s first game, but according to Hobson it did not play a helping hand in preparing for the season and it certainly did not assist in the recruitment process for this year.
“It was a mess, just like everything else. Some kids had a place to work out, others didn’t. We didn’t have as many stay on campus and work out as we normally do because of the circumstances,” Hobson said. “Camps were not allowed so we missed having our kids together for those two weeks. Recruiting was also put on hold and done on-line which makes it more difficult to evaluate players.”
Though COVID took valuable team-time away from the Tigers, the group did not waste anymore of their schedule messing around, even with the protocols that the NCAA has put into place. Hobson knows that even with the all-clear to begin games, getting through the year will be challenging.
“It’s great to have everyone available to practice after the initial testing the first week. We are going to try to have a playable season, but it will be difficult,” Hobson said. “The NCAA seems to be looking for ways to make it impossible for us at our level to have a season. Division II schools don’t really have the manpower, facilities, or equipment for all the testing they are requiring.”
Hobson said they will get started and see what happens, but mentioned that positive tests shut down operations for two weeks and without adequate time and dates for make-up games, they will just have to see.
With about 280 tests each week for women’s teams in NCAA Division II, Hobson said it would be naive to expect zero positive tests.
“It will make it difficult to keep a rhythm as a team as a result,” Hobson said. “It will be important for us to be mentally tough and maintain a good attitude about everything.”
Obeying these newly implemented rules is just another thing the team will have to deal with this year, but if it means there can be a season, they are willing to do it. Like anything these days, the season is not yet set in stone and one positive test could cause some hiccups for the team.
The Tigers are scheduled to take the Gross Memorial Coliseum court at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 19 against the Washburn Ichabods. The game can be viewed on FHSU’s MIAA Network portal page.