The women’s basketball team has hit the road several times already this season — usually to nearby states like California or Washington. But this week’s road trip is different.
The team has the unique opportunity to travel to Alaska to play in The Great Alaskan Shootout. Most of the players have never been to Alaska, and some of them haven't even seen snow before.
“We have a girl from Hawaii who has never seen snowfall,” senior Hannah Mattson, who hails from Fairbanks, Alaska, said. “I hope it snows so she can actually see it fall from the sky.”
When the team recruits and signs incoming players, the coaching staff at UP makes a point of having them play in their home state as a Pilot. The trip to Alaska was planned over two years ago so that Mattson could play in her home state during her senior season.
“I think if somebody is going to commit to us we want to have a commitment to them too,” Head Coach Cheryl Sorenson said.
Mattson told The Beacon that she is thankful for this tradition.
“I think that is fantastic that Coach C wants to do that for us,” Mattson said. “It shows that she has a lot of loyalty to her players and she has a lot of faith in us and wants us to have a good experience in college. Not just to be a good team or good players but to enjoy our time as people as well.”
Since landing, players have already started to post to their Snapchat stories — with sweatshirts pulled up around their ears — about the -5 degree weather. But despite the cold, it’s a new experience that Sorenson is excited to share with her team.
“It is going somewhere that probably none of the girls are going to venture to in their lives so it is a great opportunity for basketball to take them to new experiences,” Sorenson said. “And it is a tournament that has a wealth of history and we are honored to be a part of it.”
For Mattson, this is the last chance to play in her hometown for her final season as a college athlete. But, for the younger players, it is just the beginning of the travel they will get to partake in as Pilots.
“I think that is really cool that we get the opportunity to travel somewhere far away,” freshman Kate Andersen said. “And it is even cooler that, while we are there, we get to play some really good teams, which is going to be a great learning opportunity for us.”
After beating the University of Alaska Anchorage on Tuesday, the team is 1-3 overall. Tonight they will face off against USC at 5:30 in the Great Alaskan Shootout.