The stands are quiet, but still they play on


Bob Pierce Photography

Masked up, the volleyball team stays strong through uncertain times. While their season may look different from normal, they maintain optimism.

Everything almost looks normal. Volleyballs are still whizzing through the air, teammates still shout commands, the squeaking of the shoes against a polished floor still resounds during the matches like the constant patter of rain. But something is missing. And there is something new. 

The roar of the crowd, the stomping of their feet, the energy of the room; these have disappeared, and in their place come restrictions — masks muffling orders, the smell of sanitizers almost inseparable from sweat. This is the new reality for volleyball players this year and with it comes much uncertainty, but even more determination.

 “I’m just kinda rolling with the punches,” McKenzie Cornell (12) said. “They took away school, they took away school volleyball, so whatever else they throw at me, I’m pretty sure I can handle it.”

In club and school sports, the future is still unclear, especially for volleyball. While matches seem to have continued smoothly, some aspects of volleyball are still limited as both parents and students cope with no school sports. 

With schools closed, the blessing and silver lining for Hattie Mae … was having a sports outlet, something to keep them connected to others,” Hattie Miller’s (9) mom Alane Miller said. “Then SCS Superintendent Ray canceled all sports. This was a devastating blow for our family … The uncertainty of sports with SCS had been disconcerting.”

Like many sports, the number of people allowed at matches has been limited and tournaments are constantly being canceled and rescheduled. The students have accepted these restrictions graciously and without much resistance, but doubt still surrounds each game as the rules constantly change. 

“We’re very unsure of how the season is going to continue to go on because a couple tournaments have been canceled and sometimes they will say that spectators aren’t allowed and sometimes they are,” Hattie Miller (9) said. “So it always depends and we’re always unsure whether we’re going to be able to play in [a tournament] or not.”

With fewer spectators comes a lull on the court, and with that lull comes almost a drain in energy for some players. While the shuffle of feet and the constant thwack of the volleyball can still be heard, the atmosphere is not the same without the crowd. 

“[People normally motivate us] by stomping and cheering,” Lauren Robert (11) said. “It’s kinda weird because that’s where we get most of our energy and hype from. [Without them,] the energy isn’t the same.”

However, during these times, any social contact is welcome for many and the connections made in volleyball can feel like family. With their love of volleyball and determination to improve, their community has a strength that speaks for itself.

“Being both a club and volleyball player, it just allows you to have so many friends while making so many connections with people that love a sport just as much as you,” Emma Squires (11) said. “It is honestly like being in your own personalized family.”

As different parts of volleyball continue to shift and the final outcome still remains unclear, one thing is certain: this community will survive.

“The volleyball community is family,” Cornell said. “Team bonding is different and playing is different. I think that the family aspect hasn’t changed, but I think club volleyball in general is going to change.”

While the pandemic has revealed the worst in some places, it has highlighted the joy in the volleyball community. Through difficult times, the positivity these volleyball players exude for each other is an incredible motivation and their determination to play is real. 

“With COVID being a thing… volleyball becomes even more of my happy place because for two hours I can release stress and not have to worry…” Squires said. “Even if I have to suffocate in a mask just to play volleyball, I wouldn’t care because that’s just how much volleyball means to me.”