Lehigh volleyball begins its season on Friday, Feb. 26, against Colgate.
Due to the pandemic, all of the university’s fall sports teams saw their seasons canceled, creating a feeling of doubt hovering over the possibilities of a spring season.
Players and coaches share a feeling of gratitude for the season after being out of the gym for nearly a year.
“Honestly, I think it all just comes down to gratitude,” said senior outside hitter Hannah Wright. “I think we all realized how much we miss the sport when we weren’t playing it and we were able to gain a new perspective.”
Although the season has been confirmed, the start of the semester has been far from seamless. With both fall and spring sports playing this season, there have been logistical issues in terms of practice times and spaces.
Winter weather has forced many outdoor sports teams to conduct practices inside, and due to safety precautions being taken as a result of the pandemic, the team has run into some conflicts with scheduling.
“As of right now we have two morning practices a week and we haven’t been able to get in some Fridays due to wrestling, but there’s also been some conflicts of weather and gym time,” Wright said. “We’ve had lacrosse in there [Grace Hall], and soccer in there right before or right after us.”
In a season full of possible changes, sophomore captain Amaya Smith, as well as, head coach Alexa Keckler said one of the team’s goals is adaptability. This feat could prove difficult, especially when introducing six freshmen to the world of college athletics.
“The freshmen for sure have had a rough time in regards to they have not experienced what it’s actually like to be a Division I athlete, to the full extent,” Keckler said. “During preseason we’re practicing once a day and getting a couple lifts in, but that would have looked different in a non-pandemic year.”
Keckler said she’s impressed with the team as whole and the work ethic they’ve shown in their time together. Smith said at points the motivation to push forward was difficult, after spending a day in online classrooms the proposal of doing team activities over Zoom made it hard to stay connected.
With their first match less than a week away, Wright believes the team is ready to compete. The circumstances have not been ideal, but Wright said the season goal for the team is not to complain and focus on their games.
“It’s also a comforting feeling knowing that all the other teams in our league that we’re going to be playing have been going through kind of the same adversity that we have,” Wright said. “Our goals are definitely the same, they haven’t really changed just focusing on playing our game.”
The first match versus Colgate serves as a measuring stick to see how the team stacks up against the defending league champions. Smith, Wright and Keckler all agreed Colgate will be their toughest matchup of the season.
With no fans allowed this season, teams will have to rely much more on their own energy, rather than that of a crowd. The lack of supporters in the stands makes communication easier on the court, however, both teams will be able to hear what each other is saying. Wearing masks during the game will also add a new challenge this season, as the importance of conditioning and communication will be heightened.
Keckler said the team is out to win this season, but she and her staff will be looking for effort more than anything.
“I think for me and the staff our goal for the season is to really gauge effort,” Keckler said. “Who’s going to get on the court and just play their heart out?”