Anileon Pierce had a team-high 30 points in VPCC's first win of the season.
As Virginia Peninsula Community College women’s basketball coach Keith Stagg was driving to Warwick High School for the season opener, he was nervous. Understandably so, as it was his first game in a long time.
“Once I got here and smelled the popcorn and all that stuff, I was able to relax,” Stagg said.
The Gators were playing their first game since the 2019-20 season, which was cut short because of covid. The 2020-21 season was canceled because of Covid, and the College did not field a team last year. For Stagg, who was hired in January 2021, it was his first game leading the Gators.
It wasn’t the debut he was hoping for, as the Gators lost 117-44 to Richard Bland Community College on Nov. 12, but it was an important step for the program. He knew it was going to be a tough game. He wanted to see the players run up and down the court and feel the pressure of playing against another team.
“This has been a good learning experience for us,” he said.
Just putting on a Virginia Peninsula uniform and going through picture day was great for them.
“I think they can be a little more comfortable with what’s going on,” he said, noting for all of them it was their first college game.
Only seven players dressed out for that first game, but Stagg could have four more players join for the second semester.
“We’re hoping that’s going to make a difference,” he said.
After the opening defeat, the team bounced back the following day, beating Central Carolina Community College 80-67 behind 30 points from Anileon Pierce.
“She shot the ball really well,” Stagg said.
He said the victory showed them they can play better than how they did against Richard Bland.
“They were able to do some things they weren’t able to do against Richard Bland,” he said. “I think it was just them self-correcting.”
For Stagg and the players, it has been like starting from scratch. Only one person on the team, Nia Williamson, was at the College when it last fielded a team. The players aren’t familiar with one another.
“We’re right in the middle of trying to figure a lot of things out,” Stagg said. “They’re staying positive. That’s been the main thing in this process. Let’s stay positive.”
For him, it’s all about effort, which he has seen.
“The base is there,” he said. “They want to be with each other. They want to learn.”
He’s excited about the season because the players are too.
“They’ve been waiting to just get this one game out of the way and see what it feels like,” he said.
For more on the athletic programs at the College, go to https://www.vpcc.edu/life/athletics.