SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — There’s battles both on and off the court for the South Dakota Coyotes and Oregon Ducks this week.
On the court, the sixth-seed Ducks and No. 11 seed Coyotes are preparing for an elimination game in the first round of the NCAA women’s tournament at 9 p.m. Monday.
Off the court, women from both teams are addressing complaints of inequity. Social media posts emerged Thursday comparing the weight training facilities between the women’s and men’s NCAA tournaments.
In Indianapolis, the men’s teams have access to a full weight room to help prepare for games. In comparison, the women in San Antonio don’t have access to a full weight room but have a stack of hand weights and yoga mats.
After the pictures comparing the differences between the two weight rooms gained traction, the NCAA released a statement Thursday night blaming the difference of amenities on “limited space.”
Later Thursday night, Oregon’s Sedona Prince posted a social media video showing extra space at the women’s practice facility. Prince ended the video saying “If you aren’t upset about this problem, then you are a part of it.”
Prince’s tweet has gone viral, receiving more than 300,000 likes and 120,000 retweets, including NBA star Stephen Curry who called on more action from the NCAA.
During media availability Friday morning, South Dakota head coach Dawn Plitzuweit said her staff knew no weight room equipment would be available for the first two rounds of the tournament, but still called it a “challenge.”
She said her and the team have been following the developments on inequity for women’s sports.
“It’s something that’s drawing a lot of national attention at this point in time and I think that’s a good thing for the women’s game,” Plitzuweit said. “This is something very unfortunate but it’ll help grow our game in a new way.”
Plitzuweit said throughout the year, the Coyote women’s team hosts female speakers about areas outside of school and basketball where challenges arise for women.
“It’s good that people are taking note of it. Will it change? I believe that it will,” Plitzuweit said. “I think there were conversations that took place that are trying to make some adjustments and try to make some changes. At the same point in time, we have three expectations — be your best, be thankful and enjoy the precious present. We can only control what we can control.”
Plitzuweit joked the Coyotes and their staff brought more stuff along on their trip than any other team in the country.
Senior center Hannah Sjerven retweeted Oregon’s Sabrina Lonescu complaining about the difference in weight room equipment. She said the USD staff got creative with all the training equipment it brought to Texas with them.
“I don’t know if we’ve seen all the stuff that they brought, but thus far it’s stuff to workout and stay in shape,” Sjerven said. “We tried to come as prepared as possible.”
All of the Coyotes spoke about the unique circumstances surrounding this year’s NCAA tournament. From spacing to testing, Chloe Lamb said the players are still making the most of the experience and staying focused at the task on hand.
“We’re all very aware we’re at the NCAA tournament,” Lamb said. “If we ever do get caught up with the restrictions or limitations or the rules that we’re following, we do a good job of remembering why we are here and the reason we have to follow all these rules.”
Plitzuweit said having a selection show to set up the tournament helped make the tournament feel more normal. She said the team has embraced the strict COVID-19 protocols set by the NCAA.
“We’ve got a crew of young ladies who understand the challenges and understand the importance of being thankful and certainly understand the importance of giving their best,” Plitzuweit said.
The Coyotes will get their first practice inside the Alamodome, the same site they’ll play on Monday night, on Saturday.