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Women’s basketball looks to upcoming season with uncertain schedule, limited roster

Redshirt junior guard Lindsey Corsaro is entering her fourth year with the program and is one of just eight players currently in Westwood practicing with the team. (Joy Hong/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Jon Christon

Oct. 7, 2020 10:39 p.m.

Although a potential season start date is set with practices in tow, an uncertain campaign still awaits UCLA women’s basketball.

The spread of COVID-19 – or the potential lack thereof – will largely control the season, and without a full roster or clarity on an exact schedule, nobody knows how the season will go – not even the members of the team itself.

Redshirt junior guard Lindsey Corsaro said because of this unpredictability, the season will be full of adjustments, and the teams who react the best will prevail.

“Everything is kind of going to be adjusting on the fly,” Corsaro said. “The teams that are able to do that best – adjust the quickest, stay in focus mode and not let all the changes affect them – are going to be really successful.”

The first such adaptation for the team will be scheduling.

Though the team already had an idea of a 2020-2021 schedule long before the season, the COVID-19 pandemic has quickly changed things, and teams now have to create new schedules from scratch.

After the Pac-12 recently approved a Nov. 25 start date and an expanded conference slate of games, programs across the country had to scramble to create 25-game schedules in a short period of time.

Coach Cori Close said the process of creating a schedule typically takes three years, but this year the program is forced to do the same process in just a three-week period.

“You kind of had to throw whatever you had in the air and start over,” Close said. “I’m calling it ‘The Bachelorette’ of scheduling. We are just trying to get a rose from some of these teams and get these games scheduled.”

Once the schedule is made and the Bruins have clarity about when and who they play, there will still be a problem with the roster.

The roster won’t be the same many expected, as the team currently only has eight players on campus practicing, according to Close, and it may be a while before more help arrives.

Redshirt junior guard Kayla Owens and junior guard Kiara Jefferson – two rotation players from a year ago – have both opted out of the season for health and safety reasons.

UCLA had a three-player international 2020 recruiting class, with foward Izzy Anstey, guard Gemma Potter and forward Emily Bessoir expected to play significant roles this season.

However, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s rules regarding international students and online classes have clouded the impact the freshmen can make this season.

Bessoir, a dual U.S. and German citizen, was able to be with the team since it started practicing a few weeks ago, but for the Australians Anstey and Potter, it’s not clear when they will get the go-ahead to travel to Westwood.

Close said it hasn’t been too difficult to deal with a limited roster in these early practices, but as the season progresses and practices ramp up, she said it will pose a significant challenge.

“Over the long haul is where it’ll get tricky, (with) five-on-fives, special situations, game-like situations and when we want to scrimmage,” Close said. “You’re talking about a big change, but we’re going to have to be creative. We’re going to have to make it work. You have to find different angles to reach the endgames you want to reach.”

Close also added that a new NCAA exception has allowed the team to designate some staff members – such as former forward Ally Rosenblum and current video coordinator Simeon Spurling – as practice players with the understanding that they comply with strict COVID-19 protocols.

These protocols and restrictions have presented another new wrinkle in the already challenging season.

Redshirt junior guard Chantel Horvat said the restrictions have taken time to acclimate to, but are ultimately justified if a season can be played.

“It’s obviously a big adjustment,” Horvat said. “It’s very different, but it’s becoming the new normal which will be good in the end because it will allow us to play.”

In addition to the basic safety precautions – such as mask-wearing and sanitizing – the team is following expansive COVID-19 testing protocols and distancing measures.

Even when they are on the court, there are some early restrictions on how many players and staff can be grouped together during workouts.

How strictly the players follow the recommended protocols on their own time is still ultimately up to the individual players, but Corsaro said she has been pleased to see how serious all of her fellow Bruins are taking the recommendations to ensure a season will occur.

“We have coaches who can’t see their husbands or we have girls on our team who are just limiting who they come in contact with every day,” Corsaro said. “It’s cool to see that kind of commitment of each person to do what we have to do to have a season.”

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Jon Christon | Sports senior staff
Christon is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously the Sports editor on the men's basketball and football beats and the assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats. Christon was previously a contributor on the women's basketball and softball beats.
Christon is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously the Sports editor on the men's basketball and football beats and the assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats. Christon was previously a contributor on the women's basketball and softball beats.
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