November 30, 2006

W. Hoops Bonds Over Break

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While most Americans were nearly passed out on their couches, half-heartedly watching football in a tryptophan-induced coma, the Cornell women’s basketball team was stuck in Ithaca, nearly every student’s worst nightmare.

As odd as it is for some students to imagine spending Thanksgiving anywhere near Ithaca, being a Cornell athlete with a winter sport usually means spending Thanksgiving somewhere other than home. Thus, it might be surprising to some that Thanksgiving in Ithaca does not necessarily mean buying prepackaged sliced turkey from Bear Necessities.

“We did what most families would do on Thanksgiving,” said junior Lindsay Krasna, also a Sun Staff Writer. “We hung out and watched TV.”


“Yeah, football,” she admitted. “Everyone wants to be home, but just being around your teammates acts as a family.”

[img_assist|nid=20331|title=Turkey for you|desc=Sophomore Shannan Scarselletta (53) and the women’s basketball team spent Thanksgiving on East Hill.|link=popup|align=left|width=68|height=100]

In fact, the Red assembled in the kitchen of the Sigma Delta Theta sorority, where assistant coach Val Klopfer lives as the sorority mother.

There, while the coaches went to work on the turkey, they put the players to work, assigning each class to a traditional Thanksgiving side dish — for the most part at least. While the freshmen were in charge of themashed potatoes, the sophomores headed up the broccoli and green bean casserole, the juniors made the sweet potatoes (“I might be biased, but the sweet potatoes were the best,” Krasna exclaimed.), and the one senior, Claire Perry, whipped up some mac and cheese. Dessert brought out an unexpected treat.

Junior transfer Moina Snyder, who grew up in Nice, France, concocted some traditional French crepes.

“It’s nice to have some of their own traditions incorporated into Thanksgiving,” said head coach Dayna Smith. “I feel like everyone was able to in some way add a little bit of how they usually celebrated to our meal.”

“They do a good job of making sure everyone feels like they’re celebrating the holidays,” said junior Megan Hughes. “There was definitely a little team bonding. We had to get our cooking skills on and make something halfway decent. It makes you appreciate your family more, because usually you just have to eat what’s made for you. Here you have to depend on each other.”

After dinner, in addition to watching Tony Romo and the Cowboys beat up on the hapless Lions, the team busted out some traditional summer camp-esque games.

“We played mafia,” Krasna said. “I’m really bad at it though. I can’t tell when people are lying. It’s a good bonding time though.”

“As long as we’re here, our teammates and our coaches are our family,” Hughes said. “You can’t let that go, you have to stick with it. For Thanksgiving, that’s who you’re with.”

The next morning the Red caught an early flight out to Columbus, Ohio, to finish up the last two games of its five game road streak to start the season at the Buckeye Classic. Just as being a collegiate athlete means spending Thanksgiving at school, being a Cornell athlete often means putting up with a lot of road games during the early season, non-conference schedule.

“We have reading days, which means we can’t schedule games for two weeks,” said head coach Dayna Smith. “So, for us, we have unique scheduling issues where we have to schedule games over Thanksgiving. It’s also difficult to get teams to come up here, and it just so happened that some of the agreements we made with teams had us playing away this year.”

What this all boiled down to for the Red was five games on the road to start the season. Unfortunately, it has also boiled down to five loses for the team, a stretch which saw the Red shoot just 33 percent from the floor and 25 percent from behind the arc, a surprising result for a team composed of so many sharpshooters. No one will use the travel and time away from their families as an excuse, however.

“Being on the road is exhausting, but exciting,” Hughes said. “It’s more of a challenge. You learn how to play in tough atmospheres. You learn a lot about your team. You have to step up.”

“It definitely allows us to bond with our teammates, which is different than being at home,” Krasna said. “At home, you see them in the locker room, at practice, and that’s often the extent of it. On the road, we have a lot of team meals and a lot of down time at the hotel.”

“Whether it’s a delayed flight or a long check in to a hotel, you have to overcome adversity,” Smith said. “You can learn a ton. A hoop’s a hoop. We’re just not hitting open shots, but our guards are knocking on the door.”