Issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic have likely ended any chance of the Fort Lewis College basketball teams from clashing with Chadron State College this season.
The FLC men announced earlier in the week they would not travel to Nebraska for Saturday night’s game because of positive COVID-19 cases within the program dating back to test results received Jan. 7. On Thursday, FLC announced the women’s team also would not travel because of COVID-19 issues with the Chadron State women’s program.
It is the second time the games between the two schools have been postponed this year. Chadron State was slated to visit FLC in Durango for Dec. 4 games. At that time, the Chadron State men and women both had COVID-19 issues.
“It’s been mentally challenging for sure because we never know if we are going to play that week or not with COVID,” said FLC men’s senior forward Riley Farris. “It’s tough practicing all week and preparing for games, and then getting news we can’t play a couple days before is mentally tough. We are playing in a tough time, so we just have to stay focused and keep pushing forward.”
The FLC women added a makeup game against Regis to be played at 2 p.m. Monday in Denver. That game is pending the return of coronavirus tests to be taken by both teams Friday. FLC will need to be cleared by Sunday to travel.
“It’s difficult because we want to be as prepared as we can going into a game,” FLC women’s head coach Orlando Griego said. “It’s a lot of film we went through to prepare for how we are going to defend, what our offensive scheme will be and the tactics for the game. Now, that gets thrown out the window. We put that scout down and pick up a whole new one and start fresh all over again for a new opponent.
“Our team has stayed in good spirits all year. We are going the best we can given the circumstances. As coaches, we’ve been very transparent with the players all year letting them know that anything can change by the hour.”
To date, the FLC women (2-4, 2-4 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) have had five postponements and forfeited one game against South Dakota Mines. FLC was slated to make up a game against the Hardrockers on Jan. 3, but a second team quarantine led FLC to forfeit that contest.
Additionally, the FLC men’s and women’s games scheduled for Feb. 5 at New Mexico Highlands have been canceled, as Highlands was forced to cancel its winter sports seasons because of COVID-19 protocols in New Mexico. That leaves 12 games currently on the FLC women’s schedule and only 10 for the FLC men, excluding any potential make-up announcements.
The RMAC has said teams must complete 11 out of the 22-game conference schedule to be eligible for the eight-team conference tournament.
“For me as a coach, I am trying to call other teams that we’ve had to postpone with and just try to find a way to make up those games any way we can,” Griego said. “We are really trying to get to that 11. That’s the magic number. If we can get more, great. But for us right now, we are just knocking on the door trying to get to 11 with the way it’s been going.”
Men’s BasketballThe FLC men returned to practice Thursday after being cleared through COVID-19 testing.
Three players tested positive coming off of winter break. FLC decided to postpone Saturday’s game at Chadron State earlier in the week not knowing if the team would be allowed back on the court this week or not and knowing they would have only one day to practice together even if cleared.
“We are back to practice and will work to integrate the young men who have dealt with the virus and catch them back up to speed,” FLC head coach Bob Pietrack said. “Our guys have been off 16 to 24 days going back to the break, so it is about getting them back in basketball shape. We feel like we can do that in a week’s time.”
The men’s team is slated to play Jan. 22 at Colorado State University-Pueblo. If played, it will be only the sixth game of the season for the Skyhawks, who have completed only one home conference game all season.
FLC will have played just twice in the previous 40 days going into the matchup with the ThunderWolves, which have played six games this season but are scheduled for two more on the road ahead of the game against FLC.
FLC’s 84-79 home loss to South Dakota Mines came Jan. 3 with the Skyhawks largely without three players who tested positive. The Skyhawks have not played a game with their full roster since a 79-73 loss Dec. 19 at Colorado School of Mines, the top-ranked Division II team in the nation, in a game that saw 21 lead changes.
The FLC men (2-3, 1-3 RMAC) have now had seven games postponed with no makeup dates announced. Adams State University was scheduled to host the Skyhawks at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 23, but the Grizzlies have canceled their next three contests because of COVID-19 with the Jan. 23 game the last of those three games.
Despite all the adversity, Farris said the Skyhawks have not lost sight of goals for this season.
“There are a lot of distractions out there with all the COVID protocols, getting tested twice a week, having to quarantine for periods of time and worrying about our families at home,” Farris said. “Despite this, the goals have remained the same for the team, and we look forward to getting back to playing. With so much going on, it’s hard to not get ahead of yourself in a situation like this and want to think about next year. But we keep focusing on the goals that are ahead of us this year because anything can hapen at a time like this.”
The Skyhawks do believe they will be able to make up the game with Adams State University because of the geographical proximity to Alamosa.
Games scheduled against Chadron State, Black Hills State in South Dakota as well as games against Denver-based opponents Colorado Christian, Metro State and Regis have a smaller chance of being rescheduled because of travel reasons. Four of those contests were supposed to come at home for FLC.
“We are going to do everything we can to make up games we’ve missed,” Pietrack said. “Realistically, I think it’s going to be hard to get a lot of home games made up. We will honor the schedule the best we can and try to make up the games we’ve missed however we can.”