The women’s basketball regular season spans three months and a total of 109 days.
But, for many, it feels much longer. With preseason practices and drills, the preparation for the season lasted for months.
Now, as the team begins to approach the end of the regular season, the effect of a long season is beginning to show on the Owls (12-14, 8-5 The American).
For a team that only fields eight players, the physical and mental labors of the season begin to take its toll and, as senior Tyonna Williams put it, become “unbearable.”
“I think it just happens with a young team,” Williams said. “You reach that block midway through conference play. Winning gets hard, especially for young kids that haven’t been through it before.”
The Owls had three games from Feb. 7-14 – including road games at Tulane and Tulsa – and dropped from third place in the American Athletic Conference to fifth during that stretch.
Williams said the Owls, who entered the road trip as winners of four of their previous five games, have not been themselves of late.
“Everyone wasn’t physically and mentally there all the time when we needed it to be,” Williams said.
With a short bench and a team of six underclassmen, coach Tonya Cardoza understands that her group is in an unorthodox situation.
“When you are only playing seven or eight guys, that is tough on a body, especially throughout the entire season,” Cardoza said.
Sophomore Feyonda Fitzgerald, who said the team worries about being tired too much, knows the Owls are not as focused as a team fighting through the schedule’s home stretch needs to be.
“I think we are just in one of our little moments where we’re just not clicking right now,” Fitzgerald said. “We are clicking as a team, but we are not doing the little things that coach asks of us or the little things that we need to do to win … that’s just showing that we really don’t care about winning right now,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald also understands that fatigue comes with being a student-athlete. Balancing time in a busy class and basketball schedule is what a student-athlete must do.
“There are no days off,” Fitzgerald said. “Of course we are going to be tired, we are student athletes … but that’s no excuse.”
With five regular-season games remaining, including back-to-back road games at South Florida and Southern Methodist near the end of the month, Williams said the team must put its battle with fatigue behind it.
“You have to find a way to get yourself out of that mindset and prepare yourself to play a basketball game and endure another body beating and mental beating all over again,” Williams said.
But Williams also understands that as the team’s lone senior, she has a unique role to play.
“The only way we can get out of this is leadership,” Williams said. “With me being here and going through it for multiple seasons, [junior guard Erica Covile] being here going through it … it’s a matter of us pulling together.”
Michael Guise can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Michael_Guise