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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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Women’s basketball starts strong despite multiple quarantines

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The team gathers around Griffin during a timeout in a Jan. 24 game against George Washington University. PHOTO: MITCHELL SHIELDS ’22/THE HAWK

Sticking together, staying connected and keeping a positive mindset were integral to the St. Joe’s women’s basketball team’s 5-2 start this season, according to junior guard and co-captain Katie Jekot. 

The Hawks had four of their games postponed from Dec. 19-Jan. 3 and another three games postponed from Jan. 15-22. At times, the team only had five players practicing in person with the rest participating over Zoom.

According to freshman guard Olivia Mullins, the team was doing anything possible to stay in basketball shape.

“We have been doing workouts at home trying to stay conditioned,” Mullins said. “But for the people who are still here we’ve been doing extra lifting, extra cardio and even doing one-on-one individual workouts with one of the coaches in the gym.”

Jekot said they have a focused group of players this season who remained strong despite the team’s multiple quarantine periods.

“We’ve been through five quarantines,” Jekot said. “Every time we just do our best to stay positive and stay together.”

According to Head Coach Cindy Griffin, veteran leadership has been valuable to her team with the stop-and-start nature of the season. She said co-captains Jekot and senior guard Mary Sheehan have been fantastic leaders, and instrumental to her team’s 5-2 start.

“I would be remiss to not say that they’ve been fantastic,” Griffin said. “It’s one thing to have a great coaching staff, but it’s also another thing to have great leadership, and just the maturity and the work ethic and connectivity that they provide for our team.”

Mullins said the team leaders emphasized staying positive and focused throughout an unpredictable season.

“They have been reiterating just trying to keep a positive mindset through all of this,” Mullins said. “They rein us back in to tell us that our love for the game outweighs everything that’s going on around us.”

Griffin said that the team was prepared to deal with adversity related to the coronavirus pandemic going into the season.

“Unfortunately we knew what the routine would be,” Griffin said. “We knew what we had to do to get through this season.”

It was important to Griffin that her team continued to take steps forward despite quarantine challenges. 

“It could be keeping up with their conditioning, if they were healthy enough to do so, [or] staying connected with your teammates and then going over some strategic offensive and defensive schemes,” Griffin said.

Mullins said the coaching staff urged the players to always be ready for the unexpected amid an uncertain season.

“[We could] be getting subbed into a game, coming off a quarantine break.” Mullins said.

The Hawks have improved across the board. They opened with wins against Lincoln University and Monmouth University. Three weeks later the Hawks split their two games against La Salle, winning at home and losing on the road. They beat George Washington University at home before a short road trip, defeating University of Massachussetts 76-69 and falling to University of Rhode Island 50-48 in overtime. 

Griffin said underclassmen, in particular sophomore forward Gabby Smalls, have grown and developed well this season.

“Gabby Smalls is one of our best rebounders, she’s grown from her freshman to sophomore year,” Griffin said. “I think she brings out the best in our rebounding.”

For Mullins, the transition from high school to college has been made more difficult by the pandemic, but it’s made her a better player and teammate.

“It’s making me become more prepared as a person,” Mullins said. “I’m making sure that I’m prepared for any type of situation that comes up, staying resilient and being more connected with my team.”

Jekot said that the underclassmen have done a great job adapting throughout the season.

“Coming in as a freshman during this year can be very hard,” Jekot said. “They are taking all the input that we’re giving them and have been very responsive.”

Additionally, graduate transfer guard Alayna Gribble has also allowed the offense to diversify. 

“Gribble has been a great addition to our team,” Griffin said. “She is shooting over 50% from the three-point line and just being able to shoot the longball on a consistent basis really frees up the inside game and vice versa.”

Jekot is currently averaging career highs in points per game, assists per game, shooting percentage and three-point percentage. Jekot said that she’s done well in her move to point guard this season, and has worked to improve as an on-court leader.

“Our team has been very successful executing plays and scoring in transition,” Jekot said. “I’ve been helping my teammates get to spots that they need to be at.”

While the team has had to overcome a lot of adversity in the face of the pandemic this season, they are still managing to find success on the court, according to Jekot.

“Our team does want to play and we want to win this year,” Jekot said. “We are determined to have this season.” 

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