J-D Red Rams Volleyball: Covid, A New Opponent

Middle blocker Elsa Hardt (14) goes up for a big hit. Photo by Cleo Shiomos '22.

Kana LaClair ’24

COVID-19 put a pause on just about everything. At Jamesville-DeWitt, it is no different. In early spring of 2020, the district’s buildings were shut down. Students learned from home. And for JD’s sports? Spring athletics were canceled at all levels of play. Soon after, summer vacation came and it was announced that “high risk” fall sports were to be temporarily canceled as well. 

Boys and girls volleyball was postponed to a Fall II Season. This would take place in between the winter and spring seasons. Additionally, swimming and diving, football, and cheerleading were pushed back too. Nothing was guaranteed. Many wondered, would the Red Rams even get a volleyball season?

After Halloween, cases in Onondaga County skyrocketed. Many Winter and Fall II athletes were discouraged by this, knowing their seasons could only happen if the pandemic was under at least some control. The rates drastically rose throughout December and January, but things began to settle down as more people in the community got vaccinated. Everyone was hopeful. Once the Winter sports were cleared for play, there was little doubt that the volleyball teams would have a season.

On March 8, the volleyball teams stepped on the court. For a handful of players, it was the first time their hands were on a ball in over a year as a result of season cancellations. This has made the season even more exciting. “I’m just happy I get one more go around with my guys. We’re getting straight to work,” senior James Saroney said. 

The boys volleyball team creates their next play. Photo by Natalie Goodson ’22.

Athletes, coaches, and officials get tested weekly to ensure safety. To maximize security, all J-D sports are currently playing against other schools that get tested every week too. The majority of these schools in our area are Double-A districts. Not only does this mean that the student population is twice as big as J-D, but it also signifies that the level of competition will be much higher than typical seasons. “We have really tough competition this year, but it makes the games more fun and competitive,” senior captain Linda Shen said. 

Temperature checks, social distancing, masks and more are required in addition to weekly testing. Temperatures are taken prior to entering the gym for both practices and games. Once in the gym, the athletes each have their own designated spot as to where they can have water and mask breaks. This social distancing method is used during games too. Chairs are placed 3-6 feet apart for both J-D and the opposing teams players. “We take our precautions seriously because it will make a difference in us being able to play or not,” girls varsity and JV Coach Ferris, and boys varsity and JV Coach Cline said.

During games, there are even more precautions. In a typical, non-COVID game, the teams switch sides of the court every set. They also shake hands with each player and coach before and after the match. This season, switching sides of the court is prohibited for the purpose of minimum contact with other schools. Additionally, the teams just stand and wave to each other from opposing sides of the court, instead of the usual shaking hands. 

The Girls Volleyball team beats Liverpool 3-0. Photo by Cleo Shiomos ’22.

In the winter season, spectators were not allowed. Games were streamed on sites like YouTube, and even on some sports broadcasting platforms. Because more people in the community have gotten vaccinated and COVID cases have gone down, spectators are now able to watch games in person. 

In the beginning of the Fall II season, two people were allowed to go watch per player. Now, there are 100 spectators allowed in the gym at a time. This is a huge advancement. Not only does the crowd hype up players and give the teams some normalcy, but it is also done in a COVID-friendly manner. White tape was placed on the bleachers 6 feet apart to mark where a person can sit. Before sitting down, everyone’s information is taken for contact-tracing purposes as well. Masks are mandatory. 

Girls volleyball Coach Ferris said, “Despite the precautions and guidelines in place, once they (players) get on the court, everything seems normal. It is great to be back!” 

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