Tritons happy to be back on basketball court

Notre Dame
The Notre Dame girls basketball team opened practice for the season on MOnday. (WLUK)

GREEN BAY (WLUK) -- Sara Rohde gathered her team around before the first practice of the season and started talking like never before.

It wasn't about playing hard, making the extra pass, giving it all on defense or communicating during competition. It was about how happy she was this day came, make sure you get your temperature checked and wear a mask.

Welcome to the 2020-21 season, a season that will be unlike any other thanks to COVID-19.

Monday was the first day practices could tip off and senior Charley Apple said it perfectly, "It's special. It feels good to be back."

Rohde added: "I told the girls I never thought this day was going to come, honestly. It's was like a real odd summer and now we're practicing. I'm really happy that we're here and in the gym and we're starting on time."

The players not only have to get their temperature checked before every practice, they also must take a COVID-19 test every week. In an effort to lessen the chance of the virus striking, Rohde also has split her players into groups of two and for all drills they must work with their same teammate all season.

The masks might be the biggest thing to keep an eye on. Some players played in the AAU season and didn't have to wear a mask, but now they will and breathing through the mask while running up and down the court could be a challenge.

"It's definitely not fun, but we get to play so it's definitely worth it," Apple said. "It's a little bit harder to breathe, but we get to be on the court, going up and down and playing games."

"It's hard because we're not supposed to take it down when we're running and out of breath and that's really tough," senior Sammy Opichka said. "It's definitely something we're going to have to get used to and I guess practicing every day will help."

If Notre Dame can adjust to the mask and everything else, then maybe the Tritons will be in for a special season. However, Notre Dame has already been reminded this season won't be normal.

The Tritons were set to play Mishicot on Nov. 28 to start the season but that game has already been canceled and now the Tritons are looking for a new opponent. Game cancelations due to COVID-19 will be a common occurrence, just like has been in football.

"We're excited about the year," Rohde said. "We have a lot of strong returning players and we have a lot of good, young kids on our team as well. Assuming we can stay healthy, we're looking forward to what February can bring."

Notre Dame, which went 18-7 last season, has a strong returning nucleus of Opichka (St. Thomas recruit), Apple, Georgia Gregoire, Hope Barington and Sara Hardwick, along with freshman Gracie Grzesk. Surely the talent excites Opichka.

"I'd like to think we will have a state tournament and if we do I know we can get there," she said. "I'm really confident in our team."

Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay