With about five months left until the scheduled start for athletics, Orange Coast College’s women’s basketball team, alongside other sports, are uncertain when they’ll be allowed to return to the gym, let alone the court.
However, before the team will even take the court, it will have already faced its first obstacle: developing a cohesive team over Zoom.
“We’re working out every single day on screens so I can’t necessarily see when they take a breather when maybe they shouldn’t be taking a breather,” Head Coach Sammy Doucette said. “For the most part, it looks like they’re doing pretty well though, and that’s how they’re staying in shape.”
While the team figures to eventually meet in person once cleared to practice, the players also have to continue to work on staying fit and prevent rust before practice resumes. Which at times can prove difficult with local hoops being taken down, thus making individual practice a struggle as well.
Teams were initially told that practices could resume as early as summer. Then it was at the start of fall, but now it tentatively looks like in-person drills will return sometime in the middle of Oct.
“There’s definitely a concern for me that the season might not happen, only because of how things continue to change,” Doucette said. “We try to stay really optimistic and just hope for a season actually happening, but there’s always that fear that it might not.”
The women’s basketball team faced adversity last season going 2-14 with a lineup consisting of no bench and just its five starters for the majority of the season. A midseason injury left the team with only four active players making the team ineligible to play and it was forced to cancel 11 of its final 13 games.
Doucette, who was hired in June 2019, didn’t have the time to fully recruit a program before last season, and instead filled her team with players already at OCC alongside others who didn’t originally plan to play college basketball. The team struggled to win games on the court but stayed inspired through everything, and returned to play its last game of the season after a 22-day hiatus due to the aforementioned injury.
“Last year was a great year for us as far as culture, this year I’m just excited to really build off of that,” Doucette said.
Ahead of the new season, the program has revamped its roster adding 17 new recruits to play along sophomore Lea Adame, sophomore Gracelynn Figueroa, redshirt freshman Monet Oncu, and Ellie Soverinsky who was ineligible last season due to a transfer.
“Around June last year, I started recruiting for the class of 2020, and from really then on we had at least three recruits visiting campus every week,” said Doucette. “It’s our first recruiting class as a staff, so it’s like our baby.”
Building a large roster was always in Doucette’s plans with the program looking at more than 40 recruits over the course of last season.
“I’m excited to have such a big group,” Doucette said. “We have enough players to not have to worry about canceling games, and I’m excited to run the things that I wanted to run last year.”
Out of the 17 new recruits, only three duos have ever played together. Those pairs were recruited from Edison, Centennial, and Orange Lutheran High Schools.
“I’ve got a big team of girls who have never played with one another, and never even met each other in person, so I’m trying to connect them through screens so that’s been a challenge,” Doucette said.
As of now the program seems to be on the up as it looks set to build from the ground up with a clear goal in mind.
“If we can get that buzz back, and there is just nothing but positive things to say about my players and their work ethic and our culture, then that's definitely a successful season,” Doucette said.