For the Ohio State women’s basketball team, the 2020-21 season was anything but a breeze.
The Buckeyes had seven games either postponed or canceled due to COVID-19. Their starting point guard — junior guard Madison Greene — missed the last five games of the season — causing the team to drop five of their last six games.
They were unable to participate in postseason play due to a self-imposed postseason ban .
“It was a tough year last year, but we stuck together,” senior guard Braxtin Miller said.
While some teams may fall apart amid such adversity, the Buckeyes grew stronger during the chaotic and shortened 2020-21 season, establishing a tight-knit culture and learning valuable lessons they can carry over into the 2021-22 season.
As COVID-19 precautions prevented many players from seeing their families the entire season, the Buckeyes looked to fill that void by relying on each other and creating a family-like atmosphere both inside and outside the locker room.
“With COVID-19 and everything, last year was a really hard year for not only us, but every team out there,” junior guard Jacy Sheldon said. “A lot of us didn’t go home during the season, so all we really had was each other. We definitely fit in as much as we could with each other and used each other because those were some hard times.”
The extended time the Buckeyes spent together last season allowed the team to come together as one cohesive unit, which they can use to their advantage both this season and beyond.
“Because we weren’t able to go home so much, we relied on each other a lot and it just brought us so close, and I think you’re going to see that this year,” Miller said. “The people that came in [this season] got to see how close knit of a group they were coming into.”
Although Ohio State’s team chemistry is intact to begin the season, they will look to move past and learn from the difficult end to the 2020-21 campaign.
To prevent a similar losing streak from happening this year, Sheldon said her team must learn to finish and treat every game with an equal amount of focus and commitment needed to compete in the Big Ten Conference.
“We lost focus there at the end of the season and I think we learned from that more than anything,” Sheldon said. “That’s definitely something we’ll be focusing on, keeping our focus on every game, not only the whole season. [We need to] become mature enough to take it game by game and just focus on our next competitor because the Big Ten is full of great teams.”
While the Buckeyes hope to finish strong this season, they will also look to get the sour taste out of their mouths that emerged due to their participation in a season where they could not compete in the postseason.
Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff said missing out on tournament play last year was a difficult pill to swallow, as he believed his team had the right tools in place to make a deep run.
“We were disappointed because we didn’t have a chance to be in it,” McGuff said. “We were watching all these teams advance to the second weekend thinking, ‘Hey, we beat them.’ It was bittersweet wondering what, maybe, we could have accomplished.”
However, with 10 players returning to the team this season, including their three backcourt starters — Sheldon, Miller and Greene — the Buckeyes are using that bittersweet feeling as motivation for this season.
“I thought we were really confident in ourselves and in each other, and we were happy with what we had,” Miller said. “To not be able to play and take that a little bit further into the postseason was definitely difficult. I think that’s fueling a lot of people to only want things more this year.”
As the Buckeyes look to learn from the adversity presented last season and gear up for the 2021-22 season, McGuff knows that one thing is certain: his team will play for each other no matter what challenges may lie ahead.
“This is as close as a team as we’ve had,” McGuff said. “I think we have really good kids that like each other, and I think that is something that we can lean on throughout this year.”