LOUDONVILLE — Here’s where things stand with the Siena women’s basketball season: The 25-point loss that head coach Ali Jaques’ squad suffered Saturday wasn’t even close to being the most-frustrating thing associated with the Saints’ game against MAAC-leading Marist for their veteran coach.
Despite the score, Jaques said she was “extremely proud” of her team, which keeps trying to find a way to continue its season amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
But that challenge is one that keeps adding new hurdles for the Saints to try to manage.
“You know,” Jaques said toward the end of her post-game teleconference, “we are trying to be perfect in a very imperfect situation. Right? So we’re trying to do everything right — which our team has done everything right, to this point, that you could possibly ask of a college-age team in a very imperfect situation — and we’ve been unlucky, I would say, more than anything else.”
The latest unlucky piece to the Siena women’s basketball season was that it needed to play Saturday’s 69-44 loss against Marist with only nine available players — and without graduate student Isis Young, the MAAC’s leading scorer on the season at 19.8 points per game.
Jaques didn’t offer specifics on why Young — and at least one other Saint, sophomore Sevval Istanbulluoglu — missed the game other than that “all I can tell you is that she was unable to play for COVID protocols reasons.”
And, that — again, without any further clarification or detail available — was a rather odd development, since Young and Istanbulluoglu each played in the Saints’ previous game, a one-point loss at Monmouth that Siena played with only six players. Those six players included Young and Istanbulluoglu, and that game’s roster for the Saints only included players that had previously tested positive for COVID-19 and, thus, weren’t required to quarantine when the Saints experienced their most-recent pause, of sorts, for a positive COVID-19 test among its Tier 1 personnel late last month.
Siena is following Albany County and MAAC guidelines as it tries to complete its season. There is less than a month until the start of the conference tournament, and Siena is currently seven games shy of the minimum needed to be eligible to play in the NCAA tournament.
Jaques didn’t sound confident Saturday her team will get to 13 games. Siena has nine more games on its schedule before the MAAC tournament, but those nine games need to be played in a span of 20 days.
“With the way testing is in Albany County, no matter what, if there’s a positive test, you’re put away and you’re quarantined. No matter what. There’s other counties that have different rules and other counties that have different laws. That’s what we’re dealing with,” Jaques said. “So if we get unlucky and have one more positive test, I don’t know if we’d even be able to finish the season. And that’s what it is. I give our administration so much credit for doing everything they possibly can to put us in position to have a season, and to stay with us and just give us a chance.”
“I feel like I’m playing Russian Roulette. And I feel like I’m losing. And I hate it,” Jaques said. “And our players do, too, but they just want a chance to play basketball and I’m amazingly proud of them for that.”
Those players, too, are feeling the frustration Jaques voiced.
“Yeah, I think it’s fair to say everyone on the team [and] all the coaches, we’re all pretty frustrated,” Siena junior Margo Peterson said. “But . . . it is what it is. We’re doing all the right things. We’re quarantining, we’re washing our hands, we’re doing the little things and we’re just trying to play more games.”
Marist (11-2 MAAC, 13-2 overall) and Siena (2-4, 2-4) are scheduled to play at the recently renamed UHY Center again Sunday at 2 p.m., so there isn’t much time for the Saints to make adjustments after a game Saturday that was competitive for a half. Marist led 36-29 at halftime, then scored the first eight points of the third quarter. From there, Marist always maintained at least a 12-point lead and led by as many as 27 points in a game that never saw the Saints lead.
Eight Marist players scored at least five points, while sophomore Trinasia Kennedy had a team-high 13 points.
Peterson had a game-high 18 points for Siena. No other Saint had double-digit scoring in a game that saw Siena commit 17 turnovers.
Siena only had one conventional practice before Saturday’s game because of the conditions and protocols the Saints are trying to navigate. Peterson said she was “just happy” to get to play Saturday with her teammates that were allowed to play.
“We haven’t practiced. We haven’t shot,” Jaques said. “They could easily have opted out and quit, but this team just wants to play basketball.”