Whitman’s varsity basketball teams reflect on unique but successful season

Nisha Gharti Magar, Sports reporter

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and online learning, playing sports has been a different experience for athletes at Whitman College.

With the basketball season coming to an end, sophomore Megan Taylor describes this feeling as bittersweet and is grateful for the opportunities to practice and play basketball this year.

“It makes me proud to see how far my teammates have come, especially our first years. We are staying hopeful to make it back to the national tournament next year,” Taylor said.

All basketball practices were carried out with masks and social distancing, despite the close contact nature of the sport. Despite these restrictions, first year Sean Johnson found this year’s practice fun and intense.

“Playing basketball in times of COVID-19 is very interesting but difficult as well. As much as we had fun, it was also tough to really bond as a team because outside of practice, we never really were able to all be together in one place,” Johnson said.

Basketball players played the entire season without spectators due to COVID-19 restrictions, which posed additional challenges to the season.

“Playing without spectators is challenging especially during home games because we feed off the energy of the crowd in a game. So, this season we had to rely heavily on ourselves to keep the energy without spectators,” Johnson said.

Former team member and current student Assistant Coach Bryce Mulder is proud the hard work that the team has put in considering the strict COVID-19 policies that the college has in place for athletes. Mulder is also thankful for the leadership that his former teammates and current seniors on the team displayed this year.

“I would like to give a shout out to Carlos Angel for doing an incredible job of being a leader in the team. He has shown what college basketball and college in general looks like to the team,” Mulder said.

This season the basketball team has made some records as well. On March 14, Taylor broke the school record for the number of blocked shots against George Fox, making six blocked shots in one game. The men’s basketball team also had one of only three wins against Whitman’s rival Whitworth.

“With a new coaching staff and seven out of 10 players on the team being new to Whitman, it took some time to adjust, especially with COVID-19 restrictions, but we had a very successful season,” Mulder said.

All athletes are required to take online classes and have mostly been in the company of only their teammates.

“Online classes during the season went well, but I miss the social aspects of meeting new people,” Taylor said. “With this unique year of social distancing and online learning, I am grateful for how wonderfully the faculty and staff have done their job to accommodate us athletes.”

After a successful season, Taylor is excited for the spring in Walla Walla, because her and many of her team members have not been able to experience spring in Walla Walla until now.

Mulder is also thankful to Whitman’s administration team for doing such a great job with athletes this year. He hopes that young basketball athletes and students get to experience Whitman without COVID-19 restrictions and play games with fans’ support in person in the future.

“Fans’ energy gives us that extra push to be on top in a big game. I have heard from countless fans that they miss watching in-person games, and that has always been my favorite part about playing Whitman basketball,” Mulder said.

Even with COVID-19 restrictions and online learning, both the men’s and women’s basketball teams had a successful season. All members are looking forward to future seasons that will hopefully return to normalcy.