Wolf Pack volleyball to start conference play in the spring

Wolf+Pack+volleyball+player+Dallis+Brown+poses+with+her+mask+on.+Loyola%27s+volleyball+team+had+their+season+postponed+to+spring+amid+the+COVID-19+pandemic.+courtesy+of+Kyle+Encar

Wolf Pack volleyball player Dallis Brown poses with her mask on. Loyola’s volleyball team had their season postponed to spring amid the COVID-19 pandemic. courtesy of Kyle Encar

Jillian Oddo

Loyola’s women’s volleyball team has season been delayed to spring 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

College coaches work to build winning teams by emphasizing consistency and routine, but for the last several months, Wolf Pack volleyball head coach Jesse Zabal has had to make do with change and uncertainty.

In late July, the Southern States Athletic Conference postponed it’s women’s volleyball season to spring 2021 in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While the circumstances are unprecedented, Zabal has tried to remain positive.

“It gives us an advantage, in the sport of volleyball, that we wouldn’t normally have,” Zabal said. “We’re at an advantage; we can take this as a positive thing rather than feeling negative about it.”

In a normal fall semester, volleyball is among the first sports in action with a schedule that begins in late August. Zabal’s team would usually arrive on campus early August, two weeks before the first competition.

Coach Zabal said the team’s fall schedule looks like the spring schedule and vice versa.

“The workload is the same,” Zabal said. “We’re training and getting ready to compete.”

Zabal is headed into her fourth season as head volleyball coach. Last year, the Wolf Pack won more games than any Loyola volleyball team since the 2012-13 season, finishing with a 19-19 record.

Coach Zabal said she just wanted the SSAC to come to a decision on what was going to happen with the fall season. Zabal said it’s hard to prepare when they didn’t know what was going to happen.

“We wanted to prepare our student athletes so they’d know what would be going on this fall,” Zabal said.

Junior Outside Hitter Gabriela Martinez said the SSAC made the right decision to delay the season to spring.

“This gives us more time, and it’s more relaxed to get us ready for spring,” Martinez said.

In addition to playing their season in a different semester, Wolf Pack volleyball players have had to get used to practicing in masks, but Martinez says she doesn’t mind.

“I see the precautions Loyola is taking, and that makes me more comfortable,” Martinez said.

Before Martinez and any of her teammates could practice, they all were required to undergo a COVID-19 test.

“They (SSAC) made the right decision for our health and safety,” Martinez said.

Currently, the volleyball team is practicing and training like they would during the spring semester.

“We’re just going with it now,” Zabal said.