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Air Force coaches, athletes find perspective, positives as they move on from events canceled by government shutdown

January 23, 2018 Updated: January 24, 2018 at 6:53 am
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Keaton Van Soelen’s parents made the 10½-hour drive from the Des Moines suburbs to Colorado Springs this past weekend, only to turn right around.

The couple had driven in the night before to watch their freshman son, now a starter on Air Force’s basketball team, face Fresno State on Saturday in a game that was canceled as a result of the government shutdown. Wanting to beat the snow, they were back on the road Saturday afternoon.

“We got to spend a few hours together,” Van Soelen said.

That story was hardly unique. Trevor Lyons and C.J. Siples had family fly in for the game, only to scramble to find flights right back out.

With the shutdown over – at least for a few weeks – and Air Force back to normal, players and coaches were able to look back on a crazy weekend with some perspective, lamenting little other than the lost travel time.

“This was an unfortunate occurrence, but it’s not a tragedy,” hockey coach Frank Serratore said. “Nobody died. This is sports, we’ll figure this stuff out.”

Serratore said his team will look to make up Saturday’s canceled home game against Sacred Heart on the road. The logical date would be Feb. 12 or 13, the Monday or Tuesday following a weekend series at Bentley.

No decision has been finalized, however.

Considering the toll injuries have taken on his team, Serratore figures the Falcons might be better off facing Sacred Heart in a few weeks than they would have been Saturday night.

The injuries have been so numerous, taking out four of his top eight offensive players, that Serratore said he has lost track of them. He illustrated this by telling a story about finding injured freshman Shawn Knowlton looking strong on an exercise bike.

“I said, ‘Nolty, you look like you could do the Tour de France, your knee must be feeling good,’” Serratore said. “He goes, ‘Coach, I had shoulder surgery.’”

So, Serratore was fine with taking an unplanned breather Saturday.

“The boys had a night off,” he said. “Nobody got hurt.”

Air Force’s men’s basketball team was less eager for the break, as it was riding momentum from two road wins. But coach Dave Pilipovich said he believes the uncertainty and time away – brief though it was – will serve as motivation.

“The biggest thing for us is we talked about never taking anything for granted because you never know when you might not play again,” said Pilipovich, who spent the weekend watching news channels instead of his usual diet of ESPN. “So enjoy the moment, play as hard as you can, have fun and appreciate the opportunity to play because sometimes it’s out of your control and you never know when an injury or some other circumstance may take away that opportunity.”

The message resonated with the team, which was admittedly confused as to why the game couldn’t take place since the Falcons and Fresno State were both there and ready.

“I think the biggest thing is you can control what you can control and stuff that’s out of your control you’ve just kind of got to roll with it and keep a positive attitude,” said Lyons.

Easy for him to say. He had to return to his dorm after the game was canceled. His father, meanwhile, returned to Virginia.

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