NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — In a normal year, the U-High volleyball team would be in the stretch drive of the regular season.
The Pioneers would be tuning up for regionals, which were scheduled to begin next week. But instead, the Pioneers are on their seventh week of practice without a game.
They have a right to be bored. They are not.
“This is a good chance to get good reps, chemistry with each other,” said senior setter Kendall Burk. “I think it’s a good chance to get reps and connect with each other. As a setter I want to know what each (player) wants.”
There are no high school volleyball matches in Illinois this fall. The season was moved to the spring due to the pandemic so schools are only practicing.
And they’re only practicing until the end of October.
“Nobody’s complained about anything,” said U-High coach Mike Bolhuis. “That comes from the leadership and older kids that are mature about the situation we’re in.”
The Pioneers marched to state last year and finished fourth in class 3A. U-High felt poised to return this fall to Redbird Arena, site of the state finals.
That won’t happen but the veteran players are using Redbird Arena as motivation to get the younger Pioneer players through a monotonous fall practice schedule. And get ready for the spring.
“We did go to Redbird Arena, it was amazing,” said senior Maycie Welborn. “Players that didn’t have that same experience, it’s a little harder to stay positive but we have to be good role models and keep morale up. So whatever we can do to get people excited.”
It’s still a long wait until the season begins in March but fall practices continue for another week.
“Most importantly, it’s a chance for the kids to get in the gym and play the sport they love,” said Bolhuis. “And be around the people that enjoy being around.”