LINCOLN — Count the women’s basketball team among the Husker programs who have been hit by the coronavirus.
“We’ve definitely been affected,” NU coach Amy Williams said Wednesday in an interview with The World-Herald. She declined to say who had contracted the virus or how many had it aside from standout center Kate Cain, who announced in the spring she got COVID and recovered from it.
Injuries, including some that lingered from years past, have cut into NU’s practice roster, as well. The frontcourt — Cain, Isabelle Bourne, Bella Cravens and Annika Stewart — has been relatively intact for training camp. The backcourt, where Nebraska is looking for players to complement junior captain Sam Haiby, has been a constant shuffle.
Bourne, the rare sophomore captain, said Wednesday the practice roster got as small as six recently.
“COVID is kind of crazy now in the U.S.,” said Bourne, an Australian who spent most of her summer back home in quarantine and government-mandated lockdown, shooting hoops in her backyard. “You can’t help when someone gets it on the team. It’s going to happen. Just being able to accept that and push those who practice to work hard will make our team better.”
So the Huskers — who don’t yet know their Big Ten schedule, and probably won’t until Friday — are unlikely to start their season next week, as planned. NU has three nonconference games scheduled — one is at Creighton — and may not add any more. Williams said her team will play 20 Big Ten games, and none of her league peers has more than 25 games at this point on their schedule.
Williams’ hope going forward is that Nebraska doesn’t have significant COVID issues during the season and that, if players do contract it, they’re not seriously affected.
“So far we’ve been able to get through it and avoid that from being the case,” Williams said. “That’s probably the best silver lining that we can see at this point.”
Nebraska lost most of its top scorers from last season through graduation, transfers and the retirement of Taylor Kissinger, who has become a student-coaching assistant. The frontcourt appears to be ahead of the more injury-plagued backcourt, but the team gets along off the court and has a strong work ethic.
NU has been “intentional,” Williams said, with building chemistry in the offseason following an overhaul in the way Nebraska will develop leaders and select captains. Williams’ new framework is based on a variety of sources, she said, including conversations with volleyball coach John Cook.
Chemistry on the court? That’ll take time.
“Because of injuries and COVID interruptions, our kids haven’t had near enough time on the court together to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses or be where we would like to be in a normal year,” Williams said.
Big Ten games may start in early December, Williams said.
“You’d better get ready in a hurry,” she said.