Beneath the masks of the Wadena-Deer Creek girls basketball players were plenty of smiles as they hurried along in their first week of practices last week.
Like all sports teams in the state, practice resumed Monday, Jan. 4, and like most all teams, they play their first game Thursday, Jan. 14.
With just eight practice dates, the team wasted no time getting into full speed workouts, however, returning head coach Jordan Cresap said health and safety are of utmost importance.
"Our main priority is the mask wearing and keeping an eye on everybody," Cresap said. He said coaches intend to watch everybody to make sure no one is running low on oxygen in a high-endurance sport. If the players need mask breaks they are encouraged to pull the mask back to catch their breath.
"It's an adjustment, its a challenge, but they aren't complaining," Cresap said of his team. They were eager to have the opportunity to get back on the court.
The team had a shipment of new reusable masks arrive on Thursday. The slightly stiffer masks allowed some space between the nose and the inside of the mask, a feature that could be helpful with a lot of moisture buildup.
The team lost four main players last year, but Cresap said the team's chemistry and cohesion will be a strong suit for the group that will help them remain competitive.
Starters returning this year are juniors Lauren Gravelle and Madison Packer and sophomore Madison Carsten. The team gets coaching help from junior varsity coach Wendy Gravelle, C-team coach Jordan Anderson and assistant Jessy VanHavermaet. Including all squads, there are 21 total players out this year.
The team will have two games per week with the first game Thursday, Jan. 14 in Pillager.