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Worcester State coaches Dave Lindberg and Karen Tessmer and their staffs have done their best this season to make the locker rooms and gyms at WPI, Clark, Assumption, Anna Maria and Holy Cross seem like home for the Lancers.
Worcester State's basketball teams right now don't have a home gym - the school's old athletics building will soon be torn down to make way for a $45 million state-of-the-art wellness center where their new home gym will be housed in the future - so the Lancers are playing all their games on the road this year.
Worcester State "hosted" a men's and women's MASCAC doubleheader against Framingham State Tuesday night at the Hart Center. Tessmer and her assistants, like at the other gyms, affixed their players' blue and gold name tags to the Holy Cross lockers and hung a Worcester State banner. Lindberg brought his team's supply of basketballs.
"That rack has traveled with us wherever we go," Lindberg said.
Both teams are also using the gyms of their neighboring schools - which have been most accommodating, Lindberg and Tessmer both said - for practice.
"It's just different," Worcester State sophomore guard Julie Frankian of Millbury said. "You're used to getting out of class and walking down to the gym. Now, we get on a van. We're kind of used to it now."
This week, the Lancers also began using the gym at Chandler Magnet School, located across the street from the Worcester State campus, for day-before-game shoot-arounds and walk-throughs. The court there is not regulation size.
"We are going to have a beautiful new gym, but right now we have to be flexible," Tessmer said. "It's not a gym that makes a team. There are challenges, but our players have been great about it."
Among the drawbacks of not having a gym on campus are lack of extra shooting time and getting students to games. Tessmer hopes to start a fan bus to games this semester.
"The obvious challenge is we don't have a comfort zone," Lindberg said. "We don't have a place to go every day, that same gym, that same locker room."
Lindberg has seven freshmen on his roster.
"Having a sense of home is a great value to young kids especially," Lindberg said. "There have been games this year where we struggled and sometimes in a normal year you come back and you have a home game and you shoot a little bit better and feel a little bit more comfortable and that hasn't happened to us.
"But on the flip side," Lindberg said, "I think it's made us a closer team. I think we are tougher and we will be tougher and more resilient because of it."
The new Worcester State athletics facility is expected to open in 2016.
Lindberg's team dropped its first seven games of the season, but went 2-0 last week with wins over conference foes Westfield State and Fitchburg State.
The women's team started 3-2 in MASCAC play.
"Come playoff time, if we don't have home court it doesn't really bother us," said senior guard Meaghan Burns of West Brookfield, who last week scored her 1,000th career point, "because we've been everywhere."
Lancers enjoy overseas experience
Since returning from an eight-day community service trip to Costa Rica, the Worcester State women's basketball team has won four of its last six games.
"A really good team trip helped with team building and team bonding," Tessmer said. "And our focus is on the MASCAC games because that's what the season is about."
The Lancers conducted clinics for about 40 Costa Rican boys and girls, ages 8-15. Sophomore guard Natasha Gonzales of Milford served as translator. Soccer was the first sport of most of the kids, but they caught on to basketball concepts like spacing, passing and cutting very quickly.
"Some of them are really good," Frankian said. "It was fun to teach all of them because they were bringing things that they learned from us into their games."
The Lancers also played two games against the Costa Rican national team, immersed themselves in the culture, and had a little bit of time for fun (whitewater rafting, zip lining), too.
The trip was coordinated through Beyond Study Abroad, an international education and service-learning organization that uses sports as a vehicle to explore the world and create meaningful cross-cultural relationships.
Worcester State nursing faculty and students also made the trip and spent three days in the community doing evaluations.
"We also tried to make connections for future Worcester State trips to Costa Rica," Tessmer said. "I think putting our players in opportunities to meet new people, play and experience things they would never get here in the United States and help other people out is always positive."
Frankian, whose 2012-13 season was cut short by a torn ACL, has returned to form. She is averaging 12.4 points a game and leads the team in rebounds (7.0 per game) and free throw shooting (85 percent).
Former Tantasqua Regional and Mass. College of Liberal Arts softball standout Kristin Parzych-Hildabrand will be inducted to the MCLA Athletics Hall of Fame Feb. 22.
Parzych-Hildabrand, who grew up in Sturbridge, was a four-year starter at third base for MCLA. She earned All-MASCAC honors all four years and was an All-New England selection as a junior and senior. She holds the program record for RBIs and stolen bases and ranks in the top four all-time in hits, home runs and batting average.
Parzych-Hildabrand, who graduated from MCLA in 2000, returned to coach the Trailblazers from 2004-10. Parzych-Hildabrand and her husband, Adam, live in North Adams with their children, Gisella and Liam.
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