Oswego High School announced they would join other Southwest Prairie Conference schools in waiting until after a Nov. 19 Illinois High School Association (IHSA) meeting to determine whether to participate in a basketball season. Tryouts were originally scheduled to begin on Nov. 16 for both boys and girls basketball, but those dates have since been wiped from the schedule, and the school and district office will “rethink and revisit” their stance and decision after the meeting.
This is very sad news for Panther fans, as over the past three years Oswego has seen tremendous growth in its basketball programs, both boys and girls. The varsity boys team competed at a very high level last year prior to an unfortunate early exit, and the varsity girls team won back to back regionals and won a sectional two years ago.
Varsity boys head coach Chad Pohlmann is entering his fourth season at the helm, and after two years of success, a large roster turnover, and COVID-19 limiting their summer activities, Pohlmann isn’t quite sure what to expect.
“It’s hard for me to say what I expect because we have not even played games with this group,” Pohlmann said. “We had no summer so it’s hard to determine roles.”
Despite those complications, Pohlmann still has hope that this roster can produce for him.
“We like our group,” Pohlmann said. “We have some really solid seniors and some really talented soph.”
One of those seniors is Brady Peterlin. Peterlin is entering his second full season on the varsity roster, and his third of overall varsity experience.
“As most people know, we lost five senior starters,” Peterlin said. “We know that we are going to have to play around with things such as the way we run our offense and getting different guys into the game to see what will work for us.”
Similarly to his coach, Peterlin has some hope for success in his senior season, as he saw great improvement from his teammates and himself over their offseason workouts.
“Throughout the fall we have improved a lot,” Peterlin said. “Although we don’t have much size, we are young and quick and are going to be able to make things work.”
COVID-19 still looms large over the IHSA season. Governor JB Pritzker has temporarily paused sports, but that is not set in stone, as the IHSA has already gone over his head once before this fall.
Varsity girls head coach John Carlson believes the district is in the right by delaying the season.
“I feel that the IHSA has to look out for the well being of all the athletes, coaches, and referees,” Carslon said. “The decision to delay the start of the season is in the best interest of all those who participate.”
His four year team member and senior leader McKenna Engler agrees.
“Everything’s up in the air with the season and COVID with the numbers going up; it’s scary,” Engler said. “Health and safety is a priority.”
Just like the boys, the girls are going through a roster makeover, and will lean on some returning players to produce.
“We definitely have a different look to our team this year,” Carlson said. “McKenna Engler, [sophomore] [senior] Mia Moore, and Olivia Solis all made large contributions to the team last year. More of the scoring will be put on their shoulders this year each and every game.”
This setback has taken its toll on Coach Pohlmann, who feels for his players.
“I feel horrible for our players,” Pohlmann said. “My heart aches for them.”
Players aren’t ready to give up hope of a season. Many feel comfortable right now playing after following COVID-19 protocols throughout the summer and the first half of the fall.
“Before the more strict no contact regulations put on high school sports regarding practices,” Peterlin said. “We would scrimmage with our masks on and before we started we had our temperatures taken and were asked questions regarding COVID symptoms. I think we have all gotten used to it and I would definitely be comfortable with playing right now.”
Engler disagrees. While she still has hope for a season, she doesn’t see it happening in the immediate future.
“I don’t think the season will be happening anytime soon,” Engler said. “Hopefully by the time it does start numbers have gone down and we have better control of things.”
All the Panthers can do is sit and wait for the dominoes to fall, and they hope they fall in their favor. First they await the IHSA’s decision, followed by a decision from the district.
“I think the only thing that myself and everyone else can do right now is hope,” Peterlin said. “The only thing we can control right now is our mindset and [right now] I’m still hopeful.”
Coach Carlson wants the best for his players, and hopefully that means they’re on the floor.
“Sports are a great outlet for high school kids and their families,” Carlson said. “We just want these girls to have a great experience no matter what limitations are put on us.”