Archbishop Wood staying ready during uncertain times

Reaching the state quarterfinals during your senior year is a dream for any high school basketball player. Members are the Class of 2020 are putting those dreams on hold, or possibly even cancelling them.

Archbishop Wood reached the Elite 8 after picking up convincing wins over Berks Catholic and Twin Valley in the first two rounds of the PIAA Class-5A state playoffs. Less than 24 hours after their second-round win, the playoffs were put on hold, Thursday March 12, due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

It’s been more than two weeks since the sports world was put on hold and there is no sign when or if things will pick up again.

During this down time while teams aren’t able to get together – not even for captains practices – the Lady Vikings are doing their best to keep in touch. The players have a group chat to check in on each other throughout the day and head coach Mike McDonald sends his team challenges to stay engaged. A couple examples included each player recording their best imitation of McDonald and everyone recording themselves making five straight free throws.

“(McDonald) has done a really good job of making sure that the team aspect of things is still around even though we are separated from each other,” Wood senior Izzy Larsen said.

While the players are staying in constant digital contact, there are plenty of other things they’re missing, such as pre-game meals, seeing each other in school and drives to practice.

“You don’t realize how much you take for granted until something like this happens,” Larsen, who is in her first year at Wood but already feels the family atmosphere, said. “It’s the end of the season and practices get hard and it gets hard to get yourself through another two hours of running and getting yelled at and going through all that, but then I would do anything for those potential two more weeks of practice. I miss it so much. We all realized we take for granted how great and how much fun we have just doing all the little things.”

If play resumes, Wood will face Archbishop Carroll in the PIAA Class-5A state quarterfinals in a unique situation where both teams are looking for revenge. Wood won both meetings between the Philadelphia Catholic League rivals this season, but Carroll ended the Vikings season in this round of the state playoffs last year.

Larsen, junior Dana Kiefer and the three freshmen on Wood’s roster didn’t experience the 2019 defeat, but they understand what this game means for their teammates.

“Everyone is very excited to get the chance to play in Hershey,” Larsen said, “but I think that this game that we are about to play is the one that some of these girls have been looking forward to since they lost last year. There’s a real, real strong desire to make a statement by winning this game and knocking them out like they did to Wood last year.

“(My teammates) have shown me how much it means to them to win this game. It holds a lot of importance on this team to win this next one. For some of these girls, it’s like the biggest revenge game that they could ever imagine.”

Time will tell if Wood gets its shot at revenge and a dream ending to their season.

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