To trump adversity

The Vermont men’s basketball team had a historic season last year. They posted a record of 25-10, won the America East conference tournament and earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

It was a season that captured moments of all emotions, ranging from bitter defeat to monumental victory and most of all, triumph in the face of terrible adversity.

For the Catamounts, no one came to know the meaning of adversity more than Evan Fjeld.

Fjeld, a junior forward, was stricken with tragedy at the end of the season. In the days leading up to the championship game of the America East conference tournament, Fjeld’s mother passed away after a long and courageous battle with cancer.

It was an earth-shattering blow to Fjeld and saddened the University, the basketball program and the Burlington community.

“My teammates and coaches made it possible to get through that time. That week gave me the opportunity to escape from what I was going though just a little bit and hopefully I was able to give just a little escape to my dad and family at home,” Fjeld said.

Despite the tragedy, Fjeld and the Catamounts were able to defeat Boston University in the championship game and following the game, which was being telecast on ESPN2, Fjeld embraced his father in an incredibly touching moment.

“I think Evan handled the situation better than anyone at his age could have handled it, and I am very proud of him,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “It was a week I will never forget and not just because we won the championship.”

“It made me realize why I am truly blessed to coach at Vermont and get to work with such outstanding, high-quality student athletes,” Lonergan said. “I consider our players and staff a close-knit group that I often refer to as ‘The Vermont Basketball Family’, and that was proven to be true this season.”

The bid to the NCAA tournament was the fourth in school’s history and the first since 2005.

The tournament appearance drives the UVM program to continue its success and reach the NCAA tournament again next year.

If a repeat NCAA tournament bid is to come to fruition, Fjeld will need to step up as the program’s leader.

“As a senior my teammates are going to look up to me to set the tone,” Fjeld said. “We need to have a great offseason, as well as work hard every single day in practice, in order to reach our goals, and it is on me to ensure that this happens.”

“Over the summer I need to keep getting stronger in the weight room as well as just continue to work on becoming a complete player,” Fjeld said. “Players are made between April and September, so I need to be in the gym everyday in order to become the best player I can be.”