HELENA — As the Montana Tech women's basketball team struggles this season at a current clip of 3-11 in a tough Frontier conference, there have been a few bright spots coming out of Butte this season, one of which is Tavia Rooney.
Rooney, who is by definition a sophomore due to the Coronavirus pandemic affecting eligibility, is averaging just short of a double-double this year averaging just over 12 points and 9 rebounds per game. During her freshman season in 2019, the Townsend graduate averaged 11 points and almost 11 rebounds and was poised to have a similar season in 2020 before falling to an injury midway through the season.
Though the Orediggers lost Rooney last season, there is a little bit of a silver lining due in part to her eligibility status, but unfortunately, she'll miss out on an opportunity that many college athletes are getting.
"It was definitely a blessing to know that we got the COVID year. I mean, I wish I didn't get hurt, so I could have played five years because that's kind of a crazy thing to be able to do now with COVID —that a lot of people now are able to play, if they're healthy, actually five years," said Rooney.
Regardless of what year Rooney is at in her eligibility, she currently sits as the Orediggers' top scorer and rebounder, and head coach Carly Sanon is pleased with her return this season.
"It's nice going into a game, as a coach, knowing, somebody's average is a double-double," said Sanon. "She really helps us on the rebounding, and, you know, she can fly and she has a knack of where the rebounds going to come off, and she can get it. So, that obviously really helps us, and her ability to score also helps us, you know, a lot in a lot of different ways."
Rooney said she spent countless rehabbing her injury and didn't really step back on to the court in a full-practice capacity until the summer of 2021, and even though she'd shown she was capable of playing a high-caliber brand of basketball, she knew it wouldn't be a cakewalk getting back into the starting lineup.
"I was starting before I got hurt, and I mean, I missed out on six months of playing, so I knew I was gonna have to rehab really hard and all those girls that were playing in place of me, we're getting better," said Rooney. "So I knew going into this season and working all summer that I had people that I still needed to beat out."
Through this season, Rooney has started in all 26 of Montana Tech's games and though she's still in college she's not alone for those games as her family makes it a point to come to every game they can.
"Every single game, same with my grandparents," said Rooney with a chuckle. "They're always saying, you know, 'We're your biggest fan outside of basketball,' too. So, I definitely have really strong family ties, and I'm super, super grateful for it."
As the Montana Tech Orediggers are destined to turn in their fifth straight sub-.500 season, alarm bells aren't going off and sirens aren't sounding, but rather, the outlook coming from inside the Montana Tech program is bright.
"Everyone wants to come and work hard, you know, and we all get along. So, I think that's a really good thing about our team is we just have a great dynamic. We all get along really well, and so that helps us a lot going into the next seasons and I'm excited to see what the future holds," said Rooney.
"She's really evolving now into a leader and that's what we need from her, you know?" said Sanon. "As only a sophomore, to be that leader is something that she's really bringing to our program, and to our team. That's really exciting for years to come."