AWC Women's basketball navigating through offseason amidst pandemic.
Patrick Cunningham is the longest tenured head coach on the Arizona Western College tree of sports programs.
But, in his 20 year tenure as the AWC Lady Matadors head basketball coach he's never faced an opponent like the Coronavirus Pandemic.
"We had a lot of momentum as we ended the season, and then all of the sudden things come to a screeching halt. Individual workouts get put off to the side and you're just hoping kids can finish their classes at home. You know, the biggest word is uncertainty. You just don't know what's going to happen next."
The Lady Mats closed out their latest rebuild season with 4 consecutive victories, 1 of them on the road against conference power Eastern Arizona.
Shortly after, the pandemic changed everything when it started taking it's effect in the month of March.
Cunningham and his staff have had to make their offseason adjustments, when the social distancing mandates became common practice.
But, despite workouts becoming individualized and recruiting becoming digital, the veteran coach and his staff still found success in retooling the team roster.
"It adds to just about everything, you know. I mean, we just went about recruiting as best as we could, knowing we couldn't bring anybody in to visit. And we were very fortunate with some of the kids we signed. We were able to convince them via the FaceTime and video conferencing calls. And they trusted us enough to commit to our program. And so, we felt like we really had a successful year. And we weren't able to bring kids in, but I think we were very good at selling our program."
In addition to the strong class of incoming recruits, Cunningham has high expectations for sophomore returners such as former Cibola Lady Raider Arlyssa Underwood and former Gila Ridge Hawk Hanah Sims.
He believes that this collective group could make a run at the conference title this coming Winter.
The NJCAA just released a plan for the Fall and Winter sports seasons that would allow the Lady Mats to begin team practices in mid-September and open up season play in mid-October; with COVID-19 restrictions included.