N.C. Central women's volleyball team scrimmages during a recent practice. Photo by: Echo Staff reporter Chukwuemeka Manning Jr.

NCCU volleyball team reacts to season changes caused by pandemic

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N.C. Central University volleyball head coach Jody Brown and some of the players expressed their concerns with the change in operations of their sport, as a result of COVID-19, and how it has affected them individually with many labeling their own athletic process as “slow and socially distant.”

“Everything is a lot more spread out and right now,” said junior setter Celene Morris. “Everything is just kind of going very light just because we haven’t been doing stuff for a while.”

The volleyball team is one of the many fall sports affected at N.C. Central by the virus, causing them to postpone their season this fall.

“It’s had a big effect on us in regard to, you know, being able to travel, being able to train, and how we train, which is much different,” said Brown. “In regards to all the scheduling, financially, it’s made a huge difference. In regards to being able to just get to the matches has made it just almost impossible so whether it’s recruiting, building our volleyball business whether it’s here on campus, has just thrown a wrench in everything.”

The team has adapted to new procedures they use to play the sport, alluding to their everyday safety methods and equipment used for practice.

“So, first and foremost, we do the wellness check every day with the girls in regards to temperature checks, symptoms, and questionnaires,” Brown stated. “We also germ gel before, during, and after everything we do. We have electro-hydrostatic sprayers that we spray the balls down with and all of our equipment and then we wear masks during practice.”

Along with the effect on the program and the way volleyball is being practiced, the
season’s schedule, play, and conference (in regards to the division) has been altered in the same sense.

“There’ll be a lot more just in-conference play, the MEAC has chosen to have us play just in our division,” Coach Brown stated. “There’s a north and south division and we’re only playing the south division, which for us, is kind of a brutal swing because we have the Florida schools in our division. This means we have to go to Florida twice this year, which is a real budget killer. It puts us in a bind in regards to where we can play and how many weeks we have to play.”

The effect of the virus has also tested the coaches with their preparation in starting to engage in social activities. Comparing volleyball to other sports, in terms of numbers, this is an aspect coaches have to focus on to ensure they have a team to compete with.

“You really do have to be quite flexible in your schedule and training,” said Brown. “Football teams are showing up with 23, 25 of their kids not being able to play on weekends. For us, if you take out 2 or 3 kids, because we all live together, it’s going to shake out a team pretty quick.”

Junior setter Celene Morris briefly explained how her accustomed workout routines shifted due to the virus and how that affected her personally.

“Personally, I would say I’ve been affected because I wasn’t able to workout the same as I was before and practice volleyball,” said Morris, “so my fitness level went down. Because of that, trying to get in the swing of things is kind of difficult.”

Junior right side middle blocker Estfania Louis added to Morris, putting an emphasis on the word “different” to describe how the team’s routines have changed.

“We’re not able to see our whole team at once, for the most part, and build that team chemistry, which is different. Everything just feels so different as far as like being able to go in the weightroom, like everything is starting off so slow, compared to without a pandemic we’d just jump right into the gym or right into volleyball,” said Louis.

Junior outside and defensive specialist Hana Lee shifted the focus to it being the time to “press forward and have perseverance” despite the conditions we are under with a pandemic present.

“Even though you don’t have anyone riding on you to be ready the next game or opponent to come up, this is a chance for you to mentally challenge yourself and prepare yourself to stay strong and motivated,” said Lee.

Amongst everything going on with the virus and its effect on volleyball, junior middle blocker Morgan Goodwin expressed how she feels N.C. Central is monitoring the operations of volleyball.

“I feel like the administration and the coaches are taking all precautions and have our safety in mind,” said Goodwin.

According to Coach Brown, the MEAC has opted for the volleyball team’s scheduled start date to be January 29.

This start date is tentative and only scheduled for in-conference games. The team has not been informed whether or not their season will include any non-conference games.

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