COVID, A Year Later – BGSU Women’s Basketball and Softball

Compiled by Pershelle Rohrer and Dr. Nancy Spencer

April 21, 2021

Pershelle Rohrer is a second-year BGSU student from Logan, Utah. She is a Sport Management major with a minor in Journalism. Her primary sports interests are football, basketball, and baseball, both at the professional and collegiate levels.

Dr. Nancy Spencer is a Professor in the Sport Management program and is faculty advisor for the Maxwell Media Watch Project

What a difference a year makes!

Do you remember where you were on March 11, 2020?

That was when sports virtually shut down due to COVID.

It began when we found out that Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID!

Then there was March Madness…

By March 11, 2020, the BGSU women’s basketball team had already been eliminated from the MAC tournament. Western Michigan trounced BG with an 84-67 first round win. The season ended with a last-place finish in the MAC and a record of 10-21.

Fast-forward to one year later, and the women’s basketball team was just “coming off the program’s first win in a Mid-American Conference Tournament game in eight years” (“Setting the scene,” 2021, para. 1). Even more impressive, the Falcons were the tournament’s top seed and set to face 4th-seeded Buffalo in the semis. The turnaround was impressive by any standard, but in a year when the nation faced a global pandemic and sports were on hold for much of that time, it is even more impressive.

How did the media capture what the past year has been like for BGSU athletic teams? We examine several ways BG Athletics covered our athletic teams to understand the transformation that occurred on the women’s basketball team over the past year. We begin with an interview that Todd Walker, the ‘Voice of the Falcons,’ conducted on ‘Quarantime with the Falcons’ (2020) a month after the season ended.

One month after sports shut down due to COVID, players on the women’s basketball team, like other BGSU athletes, were dealing with how to stay engaged with one another. Coach Robyn Fralick reported they were doing a lot of FaceTime, having big team calls and doing many one-on-one calls to focus on building the depth of their relationships. In deciding how to navigate the ‘new normal’ of the pandemic, Coach Fralick encouraged the players to take control of their fitness, nutrition, and skill levels. They would need to be creative to do that. However, as the coach pointed out, they all had outdoor hoops and could work on things like ball handling skills on their own.

In reflecting on the 2020 season at BGSU, Fralick believed the team had improved a lot, although the improvement did not translate to the level she had hoped to achieve. Still, she pointed to specific signs of improvement: Madisen Parker’s three-point shooting (while she made 6 threes as a freshman, she made 98 threes in her sophomore year); Angela Perry shot 57% from the field; and Kadie Hempfling’s assists increased significantly from her freshman year.

Looking ahead to the 2020-21 season, Coach Fralick identified areas where further improvement could occur. First, she said the team needed to become better defensively, to complement their solid offense. Second, the team had to become better at rebounding. Third, she emphasized that the team needed to find ways to create better possessions, whether through second shots, free throws, or steals. And finally, they needed to increase their free throw shooting percentage.

On Monday, March 22, 2021, the memorable 3rd season of the Fralick-coached team came to an end, “as Drake University downed the Falcons, 78-68” (Cihon, 2021, para. 1).

In her postgame interview on March 22, Coach Fralick described the WNIT tournament as “an incredible experience for the team.” She felt really proud of the team and what they accomplished in continuing to change and elevate expectations all year. Fralick added that the team also got to see what the ‘best of the best looked like,’ which should be a motivating factor for next season. Whatever the 2021-2022 season holds for the BGSU women’s basketball team, it should be exciting for fans to see how this young team continues to develop.

As the women’s basketball season was ending, the softball season was just beginning.

The BGSU softball team returned to Meserve Field on Friday, March 19 for their first home game in nearly two years. The Falcons only played 17 games in the 2020 season, all of which were in neutral or road locations (“2020 softball schedule,” n.d.). 

In 2020, the Falcons had an 11-6 record with five games remaining before conference play was scheduled to begin. However, the season came to an immediate halt on March 12, 2020 when MAC Commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher announced the cancellation of all competition for the remainder of the school year (“MAC statement regarding,” 2020). All practices and in-person recruiting were also suspended. 

Members of the softball team participated in interviews discussing COVID in late February, about three weeks before the start of MAC play.

Redshirt freshman pitcher Payton Gottshall described the experience of shutting down as emotional for the team.

“When we found out we were all crying together, and it was just a big mess for us,” Gottshall said.

The softball players went back to their respective homes following the transition to remote learning and could no longer meet in person to practice. That didn’t stop them from improving and working on their skills. Head coach Sarah Willis created accountability groups for the team to participate in remotely. 

“We would work out and do mental training or do schoolwork and send it to each other,” redshirt senior catcher Evelyn Loyola said. “We would just work that way and hope that everybody would do their part so when we came back we would be ready to go.”

Summer competitive ball was another way for players to compete even if there was no timetable for when the MAC would clear the team for the 2021 season. As the country began opening up during the summer, Gottshall found places to compete to continue refining her skills. 

The Falcons returned to practice in the fall and began their 2021 season on February 12. BGSU is currently 18-18 overall and 10-11 in conference play.

Willis said that keeping the team healthy will play a significant role in the outcome of this season, including who will be crowned MAC champions.

“We, so far, have been good on our luck and discipline as a program in making sure everyone’s staying healthy so we don’t get shut down,” Willis said. “If we can keep everybody healthy and going, then we’re going to be extremely competitive in the MAC this year.”

Willis also emphasized the adaptability that is necessary to remain competitive.

“You can train for it, but you certainly can’t train for every single situation,” Willis said. “If you lose half the team because of COVID and you are still able to go play with 10, then hey, we’re going to go play with 10. The team that’s going to be the most consistent in this conference is going to have to do with adaptability, and they’re going to have the tougher mindset in terms of controlling what we can control at the end of the day.”

BGSU softball is sixth in the MAC as of April 21 (“2021 softball standings,” 2021).

References

Cihon, M. (2021, March 22). Memorable 2020-21 season comes to an end. BGSU Falcons.https://bgsufalcons.com/news/2021/3/22/womens-basketball-memorable-2020-21-season-comes-to-an-end.aspx

MAC statement regarding updated conference policies due to COVID-19. (2020, March 12). BGSUFalcons.com.https://bgsufalcons.com/news/2020/3/12/baseball-mac-statement-regarding-updated-conference-policies-due-to-covid-19.aspx

Quarantime with the Falcons – Robyn Fralick. (2020, April 24). Falcon Athleticshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V18QyA45srY

2020 softball schedule. (n.d.). BGSUFalcons.com. https://bgsufalcons.com/sports/softball/schedule/2020

2021 softball schedule. (n.d.). BGSUFalcons.com. https://bgsufalcons.com/sports/softball/schedule

2021 softball standings. (2021). Mid-American Conference. https://getsomemaction.com/standings.aspx?path=softball

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