The high came 10 months and three days ago. Arianna Gerig scored 15 points to lead Staples’ girls basketball team to a 49-42 Class LL quarterfinal win over Glastonbury.
It was the final appearance on their homecourt for the Wreckers’ seniors. Staples was a win away from their first trip to the state final since 1995, when it won its lone title. First there would be a semifinal match against Greenwich, pitting the FCIAC’s two best players — Gerig, a senior, and Cardinals freshman Mackenzie Nelson — in a game that would have been replete with enticing storylines.
The next morning came the low: news that due to the spreading Covid-19 pandemic, the CIAC had decided to cancel the remainder of the season.
“It was a crazy amount of emotions,” Gerig recalls. “We went from winning the quarterfinals and thinking about playing the semis and so much excitement to finding out it was canceled, which was pretty devastating. The big thing is we don’t know if we would have won. There’s no closure to it. Seeing how it progressed, it was the right decision to cancel it but as an athlete and a competitor it was just difficult to have it finished for you. It was not like you won or lost, it was just ended.”
Closure remains an elusive salve for Gerig. Maybe if her career had continued as planned there would have been the chance to bury the thoughts of what might have been.
Instead, Gerig has taken a road somewhat less traveled by college freshmen.
Gerig should be enjoying her first season with the women’s team at Williams. But after the New England Small College Athletic Conference, which Williams is a member of, canceled the fall sports season, and anticipating the same for this winter, Gerig opted to take a gap year.
Basketball, she said, was a big factor in her choice.
“I didn’t want to give up a season because of corona,” Gerig said. “It was important enough to make that decision. Even though this year was strange I’m very happy I made that decision. There’s been a little more time to think about last year since I haven’t moved to the collegiate level.”
Gerig now nannies for a family. She coaches young players in Westport and Fairfield, and drives to Southington to play two on two games with three other members of the Williams team who are studying remotely.
In the fall Gerig even coached her old team in the fall league.
“It was actually a lot of fun,” she said. “It gives me appreciation for my coaches. It is definitely so much harder than I would have thought. It shows you the game from a different angle but I definitely think it helped me to appreciate the game more.”
Still, being around players that were her teammates months ago roused the unshakable memories.
“Every time I see anyone else from the basketball world, either teammates or competitors, that’s always what comes up. Would we have won, would we have gone to the Sun,” said Gerig, referring to Mohegan Sun, the site of all state basketball finals. “It still lingers over me but I try to focus on the more positive points of the season. How much we accomplished. It was still a great season.”
Gerig noted with interest yesterday’s announcement that the state Department of Health advised the CIAC that it can go forward with plans to start practices for most winter sports a week from today as long as the proper protocols are followed. A final decision should come Thursday, following the CIAC Board of Control’s meeting.
This is now the second time in three years that Gerig is sitting out a season. She missed her junior year due to a torn ACL.
“You don’t know how much sports mean to you until you can’t play, until you can’t get into a gym,” Gerig said. “You can’t play pickup. It has been incredibly hard. So much of what I love is the social aspect and the competitive aspect. In that way it has been very difficult. I’m still looking forward to getting back into the swing of things, hopefully soon.”
Gerig returned to her dominant form last year after the injury. She has no doubt she will be able to shake off some of the competitive rust for next winter. In that regard Gerig is now able to look forward as well as behind.
“I’m so fortunate to be able to play four more years,” she said. “I have the privilege to go out and compete for more championships. In many ways I find myself lucky because that wasn’t my final chapter in basketball. I feel very grateful for that.”