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NVU Men’s Basketball Competitive Season Begins Today with Lyndon Hornets vs. Johnson Badgers
Only Collegiate Men’s Basketball Match Taking Place in Vermont Right Now
Lyndonville and Johnson, Vermont — Northern Vermont University Johnson and Lyndon Men’s Basketball teams open their seasons at a cross-campus game at NVU-Lyndon’s Stannard Gymnasium on Thursday, February 11. The NVU-Lyndon Hornets will compete against the NVU-Johnson Badgers in the first competitive game either team has played since late February 2020. The Lyndon and Johnson Men’s Basketball teams are also the only Vermont men’s teams available to play a contest right now, as the other men’s collegiate teams in the state have paused or canceled competition.
"I look forward to returning to action at NVU-Lyndon,” said Badgers Head Coach Miles Smith. “It has been almost one year since we stepped on the court to compete, and having an opportunity to do so will be special for our entire program. I am happy for our guys and I want to thank our administration for allowing us this opportunity."
The student-athletes are ready, too. “We’re all super excited to finally begin to play games,” says Zach Falkenburg, an NVU-Lyndon junior and Hornets guard in his third year with the team. “We’re grateful there’s a plan in place vs. shutting everything down. We’ve put in a lot of practice hours and are hoping for smooth sailing from here.”
The Presidents of the North Atlantic Conference (NAC) member schools voted to suspend all conference contests for men’s and women’s basketball, but left it up to the individual institutions to decide whether to compete. NVU is permitting each NVU Men’s Basketball team to play up to 10 games that include intrastate and interstate play, according to strict NAC and COVID-19 safety protocols.
Game cancellations due in part to positive COVID-19 cases at other institutions have delayed the start of competition for both NVU teams.
“Every change in the schedule has been because of positive tests or other COVID-related issues involving the other teams,” said Dave Pasiak, Hornets Head Coach and Sports Information Director. “NVU athletes have been great. We have no COVID-19 in our immediate circle, so the only way it’s coming in is if we loosen our circle. We stress with the players the need to keep the circle as tight as possible.”
NVU has conducted 2,100 COVID-19 tests since January 1, and as of February 10 has reported 1 positive on the Lyndon campus. Additionally, a part-time, commuting student on the Johnson campus reported a positive result from an offsite testing center. All NVU students have access to testing up to three times a week and are strongly encouraged to test at least once a week.
NVU’s testing and safety protocols have been working to keep both NVU teams competition-ready. The competition protocols are more stringent than general student testing, says Pasiak. “When we’re in practice-mode, we test once a week, which is in line with the student body. But when we’re competing, we test three times each week, on non-consecutive days, beginning one week prior to the start of competition.”
Athletics protocols include a combination of testing, careful travel planning, and strict game management policies. The university’s COVID Travel Planning and Enhanced Health and Safety Protocol states, in part:
“All NVU student-athletes, coaches and essential team personnel who will be participating in competition or traveling with teams are required to undergo three polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests per week, per State of Vermont policy. This rate equals or exceeds the testing rates set by the NCAA. With all away games, NVU teams will limit contact at the game site to only players, coaches, and officials who have met the NCAA-approved testing protocol. For home games, NVU will only host visiting teams that abide by the NCAA’s testing protocols, or a minimum of one test per week, whichever is greater.” Northern Vermont University is an NCAA Division III school.
The COVID-19 test results for both NVU teams were returned yesterday, with zero cases found. With these results, the teams are ready to play — but the safety protocols continue right up to game time.
Home team athletic trainers will meet the visiting team at the bus and officials at their cars for individual temperature and symptom checks. If any one team member doesn’t clear that check, the team will not be permitted to enter and will be sent home. Officials will each receive a rapid Covid-19 test in accordance with NCAA guidelines. If one official tests positive, they will be sent home and the other two would work the game as a two-person crew. If two or all three should test positive, then the game would be canceled.
Should all go as planned, the opening tip will be at 7 p.m. tonight.
“I’m looking forward to getting back into competition. I’ve been craving it since COVID started. We couldn’t even play a pickup game in the park any longer,” said Lawson Ouellette, NVU-Johnson sophomore and Badgers guard. “The competition will help our mental health, too.”
NVU-Lyndon student Tyrese Harris feels the same way, “I am itching to finally play a game after so many months of practice. Most of us have learned to not get our hopes up too much until we actually lineup against Johnson tomorrow on the court. Nonetheless, I cannot wait to see how our hard work from practices will finally pay off. Our goal is obviously to win. But under these circumstances, I think we will all be pleased with just being able to compete.”
Robert Dubose Jr., NVU-Johnson senior and Badgers guard, has his fingers crossed. “Our coaches have allowed us to scrimmage within the team, which is preparing us for competition. It’s been hard with the other teams not following the same safety rules. But we should at least be able to play [the NVU Hornets].”
“I’m proud of our guys and how they’ve been able to navigate this and stay on task as athletes and students,” Pasiak said. “We’re anxious to actually lace up and play. I’ll believe it’s actually happening when the referee throws the ball up for the opening tip.”
No in-person spectators will be allowed at any NVU games, but games will be livestreamed. Watch tonight’s Hornets vs. Badgers game hosted by NVU-Lyndon at nsnsports.net/colleges/nvu-lyndon/.