Mustangs look to make history in an empty gym this weekend in Lemoore

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Vanessa Cochrane
Vanessa Cochrane goes up for a shot against Santa Rosa. Photo by Paul Muyskens

The Delta College women’s basketball team has a chance to make history at West Hills College in Lemoore as they attempt to capture their first state championship in program history — but fans won’t be able to share in the moment. The California Community College Athletic Association announced on Tuesday that only teams and essential staff will be in attendance due to concerns over COVID-19.

The novel coronavirus was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization on Wednesday.

“I was sad not just for myself, but for the fans as well,” said freshman Kiara Manipol about the decision.

“It’ll just be a little weird at first to play in an empty gym, but regardless we are going to play for all of our supporters watching and leave it all out there,” she said.

Redshirt players, equipment managers, school staff, and media are among those prohibited from watching the games in person.

“I was in shock,” said sophomore Tymiko Patterson. “A lot of people were going to come to cheer us on and now they can’t. It sucks because our team feeds off of the energy of our fans.”

With a 78-46 win over Redwoods on Saturday, the Mustangs advanced to the state finals for the second year in a row and are considered the favorites by many to cut down the nets on Sunday afternoon.

“It’s very exciting,” said sophomore Vanessa Cochrane about making it back to the state finals for the second year in a row. “We worked really hard this season to get to where we were last year and try and make it to the state championship game this year.”

Last season the Mustangs made it to state and advanced to the Final Four before having the season come to an end with a loss to the eventual state champions Diablo Valley College.

“It really motivates me,” said Cochrane about the way last season ended. “We don’t want to feel that way again. I just use that as motivation. I think that we are a way better team this year and I just feel way more excited and pumped this year.”

Now 29-1 on the season, the Mustangs went a perfect 14-0 in Big 8 Conference play and currently have a 22-game winning streak.

“Winning the conference was really the number one goal and after that was getting back to the state tournament,” said head coach Gina Johnson about this season’s goals. “Everyone, of course, wants to get to the final game but we are going to just take it one game at a time.”

“They just feel like they are going to come together and even when it gets tough they are going to step it up when the challenge is there,” said Johnson after practice on Monday.

If there was ever a time to show how well they have come together as a group it will be this Thursday as the Mustangs will take on Palomar at 7 p.m. in the CCCAA state quarterfinals with the new challenge of an empty arena. All the games will be streamed live online at cccaasports.org.