For several high school sports teams this winter, the opponent that knocked them out of the playoffs wasn’t another team, but COVID-19.
Perhaps the team that, locally, felt that sting of defeat most acutely was the Peoples Academy girls’ basketball team. The squad rolled through the pandemic-shortened regular season to a 7-1 record, the only loss coming from bigger school North Country, which ended winning the Division 2 state title.
Coach Amanda Tingaud, named the Mountain Divison’s coach of the year, offered her thoughts on the season:
“When it came to our first practice in January I wasn’t sure what to expect.
“How many would show up? Would they give effort knowing only drills without contact were allowed and if we would ever even get to play?
“But every player came ready and there was this sense that they were just happy to be there. There was an energy and a sense of community that usually takes a month or so to build.
“The hardest thing in those first few weeks was not knowing if we were going to get to play other teams. There was a progression that happened. First, they were just happy to be on the basketball court together. Then, as contact was allowed within our own team, they were happy to be playing the game again.
“Due to the restrictions, when we ended in March of 2020, that was the last time most of them played five-versus-five, so it took a while to remember how to play with a team and with each other. But, that quickly moved to them being ready to play other teams.
“Throughout the first month of the season, we stressed ‘take each day as a gift,’ because we knew anyone of us or all of us could be contacted and quarantined at any time. … I really tried to use the pandemic to push that their attitude, and how they approach a situation, can change how they think or feel about that situation and, ultimately, the outcome.
“At several times over the season I would have them write down answers to questions I would present. Two questions were: what have you struggled with this season? And what are you grateful for?
“Over 75 percent of the responses to the first question was the restrictions on team bonding activities. And all of the responses to the last question were how they were grateful for this team, and everyone on it.
“These girls took everything this season in stride. And I am so proud of the effort, attitude and determination they brought day in and day out.”
The PA girls’ hoops team also brought in a few more accolades this week from the Vermont Basketball Coaches’ Association.
Shelby Wells, previously named the Mountain League player of the year, was named to the Division 3 and 4 Dream Dozen squad, among the best 12 players in those two divisions.
Teammates Gracie Beck and Melania Fogg were named to the coaches’ association’s North Team — although the annual North-South game isn’t being played this week.
Lamoille Union basketball player Heidi Tinker was also named to her division’s Dream Dozen team.
Other local players honored by the coaches’ association are PA boys’ basketball players Charlie Veit and Tamirat Tomlinson (D3-4 North Team); and Lamoille player Shane Royer (D1-2 North Team).
Two local Nordic skiers were also recognized this week.
Maggie McGee from Lamoille was one of 10 skiers named to the D-2 all-state team and Anna Isselhardt to the honorable mention team.
Both skiers were also named among the top skiers in the state by the New England Nordic Ski Association.