For Minnesota’s high school girls volleyball players, Tuesday was the definition of bittersweet.
On one hand, they learned they would, in fact, have a volleyball season, but it will come in a shorter, condensed spring version after the Minnesota State High School League’s Board of Directors voted to push volleyball — as well as football — to the spring on Tuesday as part of a ‘fourth season’ plan that moves spring sports to summer in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Boys and girls soccer, cross country, girls tennis and girls swimming and diving were all given the go-ahead to start on the scheduled date of Aug. 17. All will have few contests with shorter seasons and multi-team events eliminated.
It was a move that was considered a bit shocking by many.
“My initial reaction was surprise,” Winona Senior High volleyball coach Amber Mlynczak said. “I actually didn’t think that the shift to four seasons was on the table. I know they had talked about shifting to the spring, which did worry me because I do coach in the spring also. So I didn’t know how that would be. I actually didn’t think volleyball would be one of the ones shifted.”
Cotter volleyball coach Laurie Broghammer was also surprised by the League’s decision to move the season to the spring, considering how well the summer contact days had gone. Something Mlynczak noted as well.
“Obviously, we were very disappointed,” Broghammer said when asked about her team’s initial reaction to Tuesday’s news. We’ve been gearing up with open gyms and having a lot of fun with some great momentum this summer and then to hear that it’s postponed or delayed and then also shortened, was an obvious disappointment. … We took extreme precaution and followed all the guidelines and then some this summer. Things have been going quite well over here. That’s why we were all a bit shocked yesterday with the initial ruling just because from our perspective, volleyball is a very doable sport.
“But on the flip side, we’re super optimistic and really grateful to have the opportunity to compete in the spring, hopefully. It’s kind of a double-edged sword.”
The MSHSL originally voted against moving volleyball after the initial vote came back 9-9, but after then voting against allowing the season to start on its previously scheduled date of Aug. 17 — the Board voted 11-7 this time to push the season to March 15, 2021.
There was some gripe about soccer being allowed to start on time, especially since soccer is considered a contact sport. But the MSHSL was intent on having spectators. Volleyball is often one of the top attended events at most high schools including Winona Senior High. Since the Minnesota Department of Health’s requirement that any indoor sport played in a place where educating takes place, such as a gymnasium, be off-limits to all visitors, including spectators — the decision was made to push volleyball back and have soccer start on time.
“No matter what the (MSHSL) did they were going to get criticism for it,” Winona Senior High activities director Casey Indra said. “Starting everybody on time, you would certainly see criticism there. Not doing anything, you are going to see criticism there. I think they had the fans’ perspective in mind. Volleyball, you are indoors. Although people are saying swim and dive is indoors. … But attendance-wise football and volleyball are our two largest sports, and I believe they took that into consideration.”
Indra said more will be learned after another MSHSL meeting set for Thursday and a Big 9 Conference meeting on Friday. One of the answers they hope to receive is when volleyball and football can begin fall training after the MSHSL voted to allow teams to still hold practice. An important caveat that both players and coaches are looking forward to.
“When we found that out it was like the kids and I had just won the lottery,” Broghammer said. “It was just absolute joy to know that we were still able to get together as a team and still play a sport that we love.”
“I think any small steps towards normalcy for our kids right now are fantastic,” Mlynczak said. “So even though our season won’t look the same, I think they are a step back towards their normal that they know.”
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