The first extended layoff for the Dayton Flyers women’s basketball team in December was hard. The second one in January might have been even more challenging for coach Shauna Green and her staff and players.
Dayton had just beaten Davidson 64-58 on Jan. 14 and had one day to prepare for a home game against Fordham. It was also looking forward to two more home games the next weekend against Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
On Jan. 15, however, Dayton received the dreaded news of a positive COVID-19 test.
“It was literally a punch to the gut,” Green said Monday. “You’re on such a high. You’re in the groove. That was hard on our kids. It took them a few days to process it all. But we can’t do anything about it. We control what we control.”
That attitude paid off as Dayton returned to action Jan. 31 after four postponements. The Flyers beat St. Bonaventure on the road and have since won at Saint Louis, Saint Joseph’s and La Salle, extending their winning streak to nine games.
With a 9-0 mark in the Atlantic 10 Conference, Dayton (10-1 overall) is the league’s lone unbeaten team and owns a 1½-game lead over Rhode Island (8-2) and a two-game lead over Richmond, Fordham and Virginia Commonwealth (all 7-2).
“I think it’s just a testament to our kids and our seniors and the leadership that they’re bringing,” Green said. “We’ve had some tough games on the road: a lot of different styles and short prep time. They have been focused after a long break and came back ready to continue where we left off. All the credit to them.”
To get ready for the first game in 17 days, Dayton had five days of practice time, though Green eased the players back into the work with a focus on fundamentals with no-contact drills and no scrimmaging in the first two days. The team had two days of normal practice before playing the Bonnies.
“Having been through it a couple of times, they were kind of ready for it,” Green said. “The biggest thing was to try to keep their conditioning up through the quarantine.”
No player has excelled more since the Flyers returned to the court than redshirt senior Jenna Giacone, who has taken over the team lead in scoring (13.1 points per game) by averaging 18.0 points in the last four games. She made 11 of 22 3-pointers in that stretch and ranks sixth in the conference in A-10 play in 3-point shooting percentage (18 of 45, 40.0).
“We knew she had this in her,” Green said. “I think her role has evolved through the years. Jayla (Scaife) isn’t here anymore. Erin (Whalen) is getting so much coverage. They don’t let her get open. I told (Giacone) we need her to be more of a scoring threat. We know what she’s capable of. She can score at all three levels. We need her to be aggressive, to take those shots. She’s so much fun to watch. She’s in such a groove. She’s seeing it all come together. I couldn’t be happier for her.”
Green praised Giacone’s resilience. She overcame injuries earlier in her career to become a go-to player for Dayton in her fifth season.
“I’m putting the ball in her hands at the end of the game,” Green said. “She’s believed. She’s worked. She’s trusted the process.”
Dayton’s reward after playing four straight home games is three straight home games. It plays Richmond at 5 p.m. Friday, VCU at noon Sunday and Saint Louis at 2 p.m. Feb. 20. It does not have a game between the VCU and Saint Louis games and could reschedule one of the postponed games. It has another open stretch after the Saint Louis game where it could fit in a game early in the week.
“Every game is hard,” Green said. “Everyone knows everyone. We got that long road swing done. Now the next three are at home. They’re all big games. We’re really excited. We’re ready. We had (Monday) off, a needed day off. Then we’ll get back to it.”