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IAC GIRLS BASKETBALL: FAMILIAR COACH MAY HELP S-VE DEAL WITH COVID SEASON (2021-02-15)

BY TIM TAYLOR
Tioga County Sports Report
SPENCER — The Spencer-Van Etten varsity team may get a positive boost during this crazy coronavirus season. They know their new coach well.

"The nice thing is I coached JV the last five years, so I'm really familiar with the girls," coach Justin Cole said. "All the girls I have, I've had them before, so a lot of the stuff that we plan on doing should be familiar to them. We're going to add some new stuff, but they're used to the way I coach. They're used to the way I work and I do things in practice, which is really nice. It makes them really comfortable. It almost gives them a comfort the way this crazy year's going on. I'm just happy that they get to play."

Like the majority of high school athletes throughout the area, the Panthers are thrilled to get back on the court and compete.

"They were so excited, so excited," Cole said. "They kept asking me all year, 'Are we going to get to play? I hope we get to play. I can't wait to play.' And finally they get to."

With the move from JV up to the varsity level, Cole may have to make an adjustment or two to his approach to coaching.

"Going from JV to varsity, it's such a faster pace and I just have to get used to that, and get the kids ready for that," he said.

While Cole will see several familiar faces on the hardwood, some of his players haven't played in a while.

"We've got probably four kids coming back from last year's team and we've got some seniors coming out this year that haven't played the past couple years, which is nice to see and will keep our numbers up," he said. "It's really just adjusting to the pace. And the competition's better."

Adapting to the new coach shouldn't be as much of a challenge to the players as dealing with issues surrounding COVID-19 might be.

"One of the toughest things is learning how to play with the mask on and practice with the mask on in such a short time," Cole said. "We give them a lot of breaks, because it's so hard to breathe running up and down the floor. We don't want anything to go bad health-wise with that, so we've got to give them breaks whenever they need. Again, there's a lot of conditioning at the beginning, but still at the same time taking it easy because they haven't done anything for a year."

S-VE hasn't had to worry about kids not playing due to COVID concerns.

"Like I said, a few seniors came out that hadn't played in a few years," Cole said. "I was actually kind of worried about our numbers coming in. I though we might have seven or eight, but we ended up with 11, which is a lot better than we thought. It's kind of the same with our JV. We thought we were going to have probably eight or nine, but we actually have 15, which is really good, especially when a lot of schools I've talked to don't even have a JV team."

With a lot of down time since the previous basketball season, the potential for injuries is a concern.

"That's something that the coaches really worry about, is injuries, just going from absolutely nothing and hopping right into the season," Cole said. "We're actually dealing with a few injuries at the moment."

S-VE is the only Tioga County school not competing in the temporarily revamped IAC's Tioga County division. The Panthers will play in a division with teams from Chemung and Schuyler counties, although they have managed to work in games with Candor and Newark Valley.

"Newfield is probably the one that hurts them the most, because we knew we weren't going to get a chance to play them, them being in Tompkins County," Cole said. "Luckily, we still get to play Edison, Notre Dame, Odessa, which we play every year anyway, and we were able to pick up a game with Candor, because of the rivalry between us and Candor. They always want to play against them. I think we'll be able to play Newark Valley."

The Panthers were scheduled to open against NV, but had to reschedule. They will open the season Tuesday at home against O-M, weather permitting.

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IN PHOTO 1: Sophia Dutra. ... IN PHOTO 2: Hannah Martinez. ... IN PHOTO 3: Hannah Forrest. ... TCSR STOCK PHOTOS.

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