The Journey of Seton Hall Women’s Basketball Through COVID-19

In a strange year of college basketball, many teams have had to be put on pause due to COVID-19 concerns and the Seton Hall women’s basketball team has not been an exception. The Pirates have had three separate pauses so far this season, which have come in late November, mid-late December, and late January into early February. The first pause was due to the program being directly impacted by COVID-19 and the other two pauses were due to contact tracing within the program.


The majority of the public doesn’t know too much into the daily process of what goes on with the procedure of a college basketball team dealing with COVID-19, how they handle a pause in team activities, and what’s it like on everyone involved. I took a look at the Seton Hall women’s basketball program and what went into handling their pauses thus far this season.


I got a chance to speak with Graduate Assistant Andrew Sciancalepore, who took me a little bit into the procedure. So, it looks like everyone in the program gets tested every 1-2 days. Testing will be done leading up into a game including the day of. They will also get tested the day the first day they have team activities after a road trip. In order to administer tests efficiently, program members will be put in to two or three sections to get tested. After that, there is a 30-minute pause period where they wait for the results and if everything comes back negative, then they go on with whatever they have scheduled for that day whether it’s a game or practice.


Sciancalepore commented about the process saying, “It definitely has its barriers to it, but just like every other program in the Big East or let alone the entire nation, it’s something that everyone is coming grips with and trying their best to overcome that in a day-to-day basis.”


As for what goes in while the team is quarantine, there are no in-person events. The first time the team was quarantined for 14 days because they were directly impacted by COVID-19 and then then the second and third pauses were around seven days since they were due to contact tracing and not a positive test. I also had a chance to talk to starting center for the Pirates Alexia Allesch, who talked about how they attempt to stay active during the quarantine.


Allesch said, “We had a whole binder, a bunch of exercises. We got weights, we got foam rollers, ropes. We would try to our own little exercises…follow a little program they had for us each day. So, you could do stuff like that. We had basketballs. Do some ball-handling. So, just really what you could make out of it to kind of stay in shape a little bit.”


In addition to having these workouts provided to them, the team also had virtual meetings to see how each player and staff member was doing during their quarantine. Allesch also mentioned how the team would have virtual film sessions where they would watch old games or if they knew who they were playing next, they were watch some film of their upcoming opponent.


Even with having these exercises and workouts to do while in quarantine, it is not the same as being able to go into the gym every day and work what you need to do. It took the team a little bit to get back into game shape after their times off and sometimes it even looked like the team wasn’t back to 100% when they played some of their first game backs. It’s a process getting back into game shape after a quarantine. Sciancalepore mentioned how the team kind of brought a training camp mentality to returning to play, especially after the first pause where they came off of two or three weeks without playing.


Allesch talked about her experience in returning to play a little bit by saying, “You’re out of shape, you’re winded, and then you got to come back gradually…the coaches know we can’t just go back in and scrimmage right away. So, we’ll gradually start off with easy drills, start half court, and then go full court, do a lot of scout, and film stuff like that. The coaches are great with it. They gradually bring us back into it.”


If you’ve watched any college basketball games this season, you may have noticed a few changes. A socially distanced bench. Coaches, referees, and players on the bench wearing masks. A small amount or no fans. The pandemic has made a huge impact on Sciancalepore’s job as a Graduate Assistant/Manager where he has to be more careful and the job can be more demanding. He’s spent the last two years being a manager for the team and there are many differences between non-COVID times and now having to work in the middle of a global pandemic. He commented on how the game set up is different, especially with the bench but the main situation he talked about is the bottle and towel situation during the game long with wearing mask while doing physically active labor.


He said, “We have to label all the towels and bottles. We have to switch them out at halftime and have another set for all the players. It just adds on to the job…Rebounding is a big part of being a manager or working in or being around the program like kind of rebounding, passing just kind of being physically there and setting up everything on your feet. So, it definitely stinks sweating through your mask.”


According to Sciancalepore, the most challenging part is making sure he’s not contaminating anything while doing his job. He has to be supper careful when it comes to switching out water bottles and mainly anything that could come in contact with a player. He doesn’t think the guidelines have been too strict that they are altering the game or experience too much, but still keeping every safe. The main changes seem to be just small details of the job, which can go a long way when it comes to dealing with COVID-19.


Unlike games, practice seems to be a bit more normal according to Sciancalepore and Allesch. I asked Allesch what a normal practice day looks like for her and she said, “We have to get there earlier and get tested. Hope we’re all negative. We just start practice. Everyone has their masks on, so that’s definitely different. But yeah, everything’s the same. It’s a normal practice. We don’t really think about it right then and there. We just go about it, but everything is cleaned, try to stay away from people, stuff like that.”


Despite all these pauses and interferences, the Seton Hall women’s basketball team has had fantastic success. The team has a 9-6 overall record to go with a 7-5 conference record. They are one of the tops teams in the Big East when their firing on all the right cylinders they can compete with top teams in the nation. Allesch said their attitude throughout the season has just been “We just wanna play, we just wanna play.” They’re ready for whatever gets thrown their way and are ready to play anyone at any time at any place.


In a time where a lot of people want to forget the reality of what is happening in the world, basketball is helping this team, their program, and college basketball fans across the country find a place to forget and get wrapped up in something they love. I think Allesch summed it up the perfect way when she said, “Basketball is definitely helping, but when you’re in that moment, you just play. You don’t think of anything else.”