The Husson University men’s and women’s basketball teams were seven hours into the drive from Bangor to Canton, New York, for a game against SUNY Canton last Friday when they found out they had to turn around.
Prior to departing for the road trip, all players and personnel tested negative using rapid antigen tests for COVID-19, but the results from the more definitive PCR tests were delayed. It wasn’t until they were on the road that the teams, which each took their own bus, found out that they had players test positive for the virus.
One player on the men’s team tested positive, while the women’s team had two.
“We decided on the bus that we didn’t want to expose another team to it,” said Warren Caruso, the Husson men’s basketball coach.
The canceled road trip, which also originally included a stop at Northern Vermont-Johnson on Saturday for both teams, meant that the hiatus for both Husson teams due to COVID-19 cancellations would be extended to more than a month. When Husson hosts SUNY-Poly on Friday, the games will be the first for each team since Dec. 13, and each are expected to field just seven players as many teammates remain sidelined with COVID.
The men will play SUNY-Poly at 4 p.m. and then women play the Wildcats at 6 p.m. The teams will face Cazenovia on Saturday.
There are 17 players on the Husson men’s roster and 12 on the women’s roster, although senior guard Sydney Allen has been lost for the season with a knee injury, reducing the number to 11.
The men’s team had already lost a Christmas break trip to California, and the women lost their trip to Florida. Both teams were unable to return to the practice floor until Wednesday and Thursday.
The women returned from Christmas break on Dec. 30, one day after the men, and both were able to get in a few practices before leaving for Canton.
Husson women’s basketball coach Kissy Walker has had four players test positive for COVID-19 since the start of the season and another one is in question. Her team is fully vaccinated.
Caruso’s team has had 10 cases of COVID-19 and he has also contracted it himself.
Caruso said all but two of his players have been vaccinated. The two who haven’t been vaccinated are among the 10 who contracted it.
One of Walker’s players had several symptoms and missed considerable time, but everyone else was either asymptomatic or had mild symptoms.
“None of ours got really sick,” Caruso said. “They either didn’t have any symptoms or had a very mild headache and some stuffiness.”
Both have been very impressed with how their players have dealt with the situation.
“They’re taking it all in stride,” Caruso said. “Our mindset is ‘It is what it is.’ I’m proud of how they’ve handled it.”
Walker may get a player back from COVID-19 protocols for Saturday’s game against Cazenovia, while Caruso said he could get at least one back on Friday and expects to have two available on Saturday.
Both coaches are cognizant of the fact that most teams across the country are dealing with the pandemic and tons of games have had to be postponed.
“You just do the best you can with who you have,” Walker said.
The silver lining is that they will have a chance to play for a tournament championship this year, unlike last season when there wasn’t a tournament and teams played limited schedules. The Husson men went 10-0 and the women were 6-1.
Walker said one thing she has learned from this season is she needs to have more than 12 players on future rosters.
She said that she only keeps 12 because she prioritizes team chemistry.
“But with all the COVID stuff going on, I need more numbers.” she said.