‘This didn’t happen overnight.’ UVM women’s basketball discontinues season

The Vermont women’s basketball program will not play the remainder of their 2020-21 campaign.
Published: Jan. 24, 2021 at 4:36 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – UVM athletics is on a department-wide pause until February 4th. It’s not yet known when teams will ultimately return to action, but for one, the decision has already been made not to return.

On Sunday, the UVM women’s basketball team announced that it had decided not to play out the remainder of the season. The Cats were off to a 4-2 start, but had not played a game the past three weekends, first due to players having to quarentine due to contact tracing, then having that pause extended due to positive COVID tests within the program before the announcement of the departement-wide pause was made.

The decision to discontinue was made, and driven, by the players themselves. Head coach Alisa Kresge said Monday that her staff had an open channel of communication with all the players throughout the season and that this decision was not made as a result of one singular event, but rather the culmination on a long chain of challenges.

“This wasn’t easy. This didn’t happen overnight.”, said Kresge. “There’s a lot of factors that went into this, each player has really has been battling with different factors, but as a collective group they realize that at this point continuing wasn’t in their best interest.”

“It was kind of the perfect storm. We were battling with the quarantine and the unknowns. It was the unknowns...can we stay healthy?..what would it be for their future if they individually got sick? we have games, do we not have games? The culmination of the unknowns just took its toll for our players.”

For his part, UVM Director of Athletics Jeff Schulman said Monday that from the beginning, for all the teams, the decisions about whether or not to move forward with a season has been up to the players. He knows the mulitple layers of restrictions and protocols that have been implemented to try and play this winter and both understands and respects the decision made by the women’s basketball team.

“It’s a lot that were asking of these young men and women.”, said Schulman. “When you take into account all the testing requirements, all the different protocols that we have in place, the quarantining, being away from home, not being able to go back and see family during the breaks, and just the overall uncertainty that so many of us are dealing with in different ways, and throw on top of that trying to be a competitive Division I athlete, it’s a lot.”

“Just listening to the student athletes talk about the stress and the anxiety that comes with waking up every morning and not being sure if you’re going to get a call saying ‘show up in 45 minutes downstairs, you’re being taken to a quarantine dorm’ or ‘you’re positive’ or ‘your roommates is positive’. It’s a lot for everybody...for any of us.”

Looking ahead, hopefully the Cats will be able to play a complete season next winter. If so, they have plenty to build off of. Vermont did go 4-2 in its abbreviated campaign, finishing on a three game win streak.

Several players shined, none moreso than freshman forward Anna Olsen, who led UVM in scoring and was named America East player of the week once, and rookie of the week twice.

The NCAA has issued a blanket waiver for this season, so no player will lose a year of eligibilty, and there is just one senior on this roster, captain Josie Larkins, and coach Alisa Kresge says Larkins is applying to grad school so she may be back next season, which means the entire squad could return intact.

Coach Kresge says she’s proud of what her team accomplished this season and excited about its future.

“So I think you can spin everything, but I’d like to spin it as a positive, that it’s gonna make us better.

We’re going to be competing more in practice, we’re gonna have more bodies.

So I’m excited, I’m excited for what is now the upcoming year and how we’ll have more depth and how practices will be more competitive and everybody’s going to get better and overall our program’s going to get better.”

In the more immediate future, the rest of the UVM athletic department and it’s winter teams are on a COVID-related pause until Thursday, February 4th. That pause now impacts the UVM men’s basketball team and men’s and women’s hockey teams, as well as the ski program.

Schulman says that, while the final decisions on competing for those teams remain in the hands of the athletes, the aim is to continue to move forward with the winter season and he has confidence in the protocols in University has in place.

Our priorities will be to continue to emphasize health and safety above all, but also within that context, to make every effort we can to get our teams to the finish line if that’s what they want.

“And so we’re working with our health and safety people on campus and the Vermont health department. We’re not going to do anything to put the community or anybody at risk but, as we’ve shown before, I think we have protocols in place that will allow they can allow us to play and play safely.”

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