After waiting over a year, the volleyball team is looking forward to the long-awaited return to the court. The expectations are high for the team, and the key to success is excitement.
After 12 seasons with the team, head coach Jennifer Ei is heading into a unique season. The season starts typically in the Fall semester, but with COVID-19, the start was delayed to the spring. Ei said the time away from the courts has taught the team a lot.
“We went back and focused on the basics,” Ei said. “Which helped our team both individually and collectively.”
Both sophomore captains, Gracie LaForge and Makenize Griffel, think the time off was essential to work on self-motivation and team chemistry.
“We had a lot of time together,” LaForge said. “So, we were able to bond together with the freshman coming in.”
Freshman teammates Ryleigh McBurney and Madison Steiner could not agree more with the team captains.
“All the girls have been so fun and welcoming,” McBurney said. “I feel like I can go to any of the coaches and girls for advice or support.”
“The sophomores have been good leaders helping us adapt to the new system,” Steiner said.
The reason behind the postponement of the season was the COVID-19 pandemic, and it will bring some consequences to the volleyball calendar. Ei said the huge time off can actually bring some positive impact on the team since they had more time to work in between seasons, which is unusual.
“It is already different from starting in the spring as we have had some time to work on individual skill set when we play in the fall,” Ei said. “You are not allowed for the amount of time to get these types of repetitions to improve.”
Another impact of the COVID-19 restrictions is the absence of crowds and the energy they bring with them. McBurney believes the energy from the fans will affect the team’s performance.
“I do think that these COVID-19 protocols and regulations can affect the team’s performance,” McBurney said. “The energy will be different without fans cheering and having a loud gym to play in during games.”
One narrative among the coaches and athletes is the excitement of players to get back to the court and compete. Ei said this excitement can bring positive impacts on the team.
“Time away will have a positive effect on this team as they are eager to get back on the court again,” Ei said.
One difficulty the volleyball team will face is the conflicting schedules that can be generated with the Women’s basketball team. LaForge expressed her concerns about having simultaneous fall sports.
“I think it will be harder to fit in basketball and volleyball,” LaForge said.
Despite these difficulties, the season expectations for players and coaches are still high. For Ei, the Lady Cavaliers are real contenders with a strong leadership.
“This team has worked really hard during this ling time off and they have great leadership that pushes them to be great,” Ei said.
For LaForge and Griffel, the goal is to make it to nationals, improve the team record over the 2019 season and hopefully win it all.
“Our expectation is to make it to nationals and hopefully have a better record,” Griffel said.
Steiner and McBurney are feeling confident as well about their new team’s chances to have a great season.
“I do believe we are contenders this season,” Steiner said. “We have a highly competitive team that wants the best for each other, and I can’t wait to see where we go with it.”
Between expectations, excitement and confidence, the Lady Cavaliers made their debut against the Highland Community College – Kansas on Jan. 28, after the team’s first game against the Ottawa University, on Jan. 26, was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols. The Lady Cavaliers won by 3-2.
By Matheus Camossa