Rock Valley women play in empty arena at national tournament

Published: Mar. 14, 2020 at 7:55 PM CDT
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The coronavirus has left its impact on the sports world, shutting down professional and collegiate athletics. Rock Valley hosted the Junior College DIII Women's National Championship Tournament, without any fans.

"It was more of a road game. It kind of felt like, even though we were here at home."

In his first year at the helm of Rock Valley women's basketball, Darryl Watkins brought the Golden Eagles back to the JUCO DIII National Tournament. The added bonus, playing host to the tourney.

Just two weeks ago, RVC was celebrating a district championship on its home court.

"We were expecting a full house every night, from everybody I talked to in the community," said Watkins. "We were expecting a full house Thursday, Friday, and all the way through. Things don't always happen that way in sports, as we know."

That's because the NJCAA closed off the event to spectators in response to the coronavirus. The decision was made in part because of Winnebago County's attempt to limit public events to 25 people or less during the pandemic. Watkins said the team found out during their shoot around on Thursday.

"It's empty. We had to bring our own energy. Even though we had our working crew here that are Rock Valley personnel, but still had more of that road feel."

"Crowd effects games big time, people in arenas effects games big time and you can tell in certain games."

Not only did it feel different on the court, it looked different. The chairs courtside for the teams were staggered, making sure the team used some sort of social distancing.

"It was a really weird situation going on," said Watkins. "But you got to adapt, you got to go with the punches, go with the flow. We adjusted and we were able to get game one done. By then, we knew what was going on, so can't really use that one as an excuse, but it was weird."

The Golden Eagles lost in the semifinals to eventual champions Western Tech. Now it's time for Watkins and the rest of Rock Valley to look ahead.

"I told them once everything dies down, with everything right here, once we're allowed to come back on campus, once we're allowed to meet again, we'll sit down and we'll go through those options that they have," said Watkins.

"Every single one of them has the option to move onto the four year level."

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