Columbus State dealing with flu, robots as they prepare for DII Elite Eight


COLUMBUS, Ga. — The Columbus State women’s basketball team is dealing with everything from an outbreak of the flu, to robots, as they prepare for the NCAA Division II Elite Eight.

Several Lady Cougars and coaches are dealing with the flu, which flared up during the team’s championship run in the NCAA Southeast Regional tournament. At Thursday’s practice, senior Gabby Williams was still wearing a disposable dusk mask around her face to try and prevent spreading the virus to her teammates.

That practice took place in the Woodruff Gymnasium on CSU’s campus, instead of the Lumpkin Center, the team’s current home. The team is unable to practice in the Lumpkin Center this week because it is occupied by a FIRST Robotics Competition, so they have been forced to setup in the former home of CSU basketball, constructed in 1960’s.

To their credit, CSU head coach Anita Howard and her players say they don’t really care where they have to practice, or what they have to deal with ahead of the biggest game of the season.

“You know at this point, you can either have excuses or results. And I don’t want to hear any excuses,” said Howard.

Columbus State will play Virginia Union in the NCAA DII Elite Eight on Tuesday at noon on the campus of Ohio Dominican University in Columbus, Ohio.

Howard is very familiar with her team’s opponent, having previously coached against the Panthers in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Howard says VU coach AnnMarie Gilbert is the only coach to beat her twice, and she’s hoping for payback.

“I know everything about Virginia Union. That’s the league I came from. I coached in the CIAA. I know their coach really well,” said Howard.

“I know her style, I’ve recruited against it. She’s the only coach that has beaten me twice. So, I kind of owe her this favor back,”said Howard.

The two coaches texted each other congratulations after reaching the Elite Eight, before it was announced they would be opponents.

“When she won, I texted her congratulations that night. She texted me as well. And then, a couple hours later, we found out we’re enemies again,” said Howard with a smile.

“So the texting stopped after that,” she continued.

CSU will leave campus on a bus Sunday morning at 5 a.m., drive to Atlanta, and fly into Dayton,Ohio before taking another bus to Columbus for the tournament.

It will be the first plane trip for CSU’s Gabby Williams and Ariel Johnson, who were offered the option of riding a bus to Columbus if they were nervous about flying.

The robotics competition features 39 teams of high school students from around the region testing their robots in an arena setup on the main floor of the Lumpkin Center. The competition runs through Sunday.

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