Concerns about the coronavirus have been lifted from the Fort Lewis College women’s basketball team this week. The Skyhawks are ready to play again.
A week after FLC was forced to forfeit a game against South Dakota Mines because of a seven-day quarantine after a potential exposure to COVID-19, the Skyhawks were cleared Thursday to host Colorado Christian University at 5:30 p.m. Friday and Metro State University of Denver at 2 p.m. Sunday.
FLC will look to avenge a 73-67 loss suffered Dec. 12 at Colorado Christian (2-3, 2-3 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) in Lakewood in Friday night’s game. But it will come with only one day of full-team practice as players returned Thursday from the quarantine.
“It’s tough because you obviously want to practice with all of the players together so we can make sure they all have a great understanding of our gameplan,” said FLC head coach Orlando Griego. “But it is nice to have this game against an opponent we played against recently. We are familiar with them, so that should help us.”
The Skyhawks (1-4, 1-4 RMAC) will look to turn in a better defensive effort in 2021 than in the previous four games before the winter break. FLC has the fourth-best scoring offense (68.6 points per game) but the 13th ranked scoring defense (74) in the 15-team conference.
“The biggest thing for us is keeping consistent,” Griego said. “Our mantra in the new year is playing better defense. We are really going to go out and play better defense and let that start our offense. That’s been the focus all week.”
The Skyhawks also hope to get a lift in the second half of the season with the return of senior guard Sydney Candelaria, who missed two games before the break with an injury.
In the previous matchup against the Cougars, FLC sophomore forward Jordan Vasquez was able to score 20 points and had nine rebounds in only 21 minutes of play before she fouled out. Her foul trouble was key in the game, though FLC was able to contain CCU senior forward Lourdes Gonzalez well below her season averages with 11 points and five rebounds. Gonzalez is eighth in the conference in scoring at 15.8 points per game and ranks second in shooting percentage at 57.7%. She also is fourth in the RMAC with 8.2 rebounds per game.
“She’s tough and fights hard and is really tough going after the ball,” Griego said. “For us, it’s about playing her physical. If she guards (Vasquez), then she will have her hands full and we will attack her. We will work hard on her on our defensive end, too. We have to match her efforts and talent.”
Vasquez is up to the task. The sophomore from Farmington is second in the conference in scoring at 22.4 points per game and ranks third in rebounding at 8.4 per game. She has made 56.9% of her shots to also rank third in the league.
“Her presence in the paint is tough, and she’s done a great job,” Griego said. “Now it is about her and I and the team learning on how to adapt. We need her to adapt when she’s in foul trouble, and we need to adapt and know we can’t always rely on her. We have to score the ball more from the outside and get others involved making plays.”
FLC guard Bailey Osmer has averaged 10.3 points, two assists and two steals per game this season. Four other players – Alyssa Adams, Alison Chanhthala, Chloe Warrington and Katrina Chandler, have averaged more than seven points per game.
After Friday’s clash, FLC will get a bonus day Saturday to prepare for Sunday’s game against a Metro State Roadrunners team (4-3, 3-2 RMAC) which has won three consecutive games.
The Roadrunners are led by senior forward Allie Navarette, who is fourth in the conference with 18.7 points per game while she has also averaged 8.6 rebounds per contest. It will be another great matchup for Vasquez against a high-percentage shooter who also excels at the foul line.
“They have a good post presence, too. They’re big and strong and physical all over,” Griego said. “They also have guards who get up and down and score the ball. For us, we haven’t had back-to-back games yet this season, so having Saturday off for an additional day of prep is huge for us.”