By: Lanya Liebler-Bendix
On March 15th, 2021, Pacific’s women’s volleyball team closed their season abruptly, due to an outbreak of COVID among the team. Before this happened, the sixteen-player team played nine games against Gonzaga, USF, Pepperdine, Santa Clara, and Saint Mary’s, respectively. Though the team was also slated to play against San Diego State, Brigham Young, Portland, and Loyola Marymount, these games have all been cancelled due to the untimely closure of the season.
Like many of the other athletic teams at Pacific, the women’s volleyball team was also practicing extensive safety precautions. These included being tested 3 times per week or 48 hours before every contest (for both home and away), mask wearing, and limited contact with non-team members.
Even though the players and athletic staff went into the season knowing that this could happen, cutting the season short was still difficult for many. Player Shahrzad Sadeghi, Biological Sciences, ‘23, says the most difficult part was “knowing that we would be going into a season that could be cancelled at any moment due to COVID regulations.” She also mentioned that although there were concerns about an early end to the season, it didn’t stop them from training hard.
“We all tried our best to maintain the utmost positive mindset going into it knowing that no matter what would happen, we would put in all our effort and hard work,” said Sadeghi.
Greg Gibbons, the team’s head coach, also commented on the closure.
“Health, well-being and safety are paramount for our program and due to the number of injuries this spring, I fully support the decision made by our team," said Gibbons. "We look forward to a full recovery, preparing for our future and getting back on the court this fall."
Pacific’s Athletics Media Relations Manager, Chris Fourtney, also shared his opinions on the early closure of the season. He mentioned that he fully supported Gibbons’ decision to end the season early.
“Although the postponement of the 2020 fall season and early conclusion of the 2021 spring season is not ideal, it is in the best interest for our student-athletes at this time as the health, well-being and safety of our girls is paramount... While I wish our girls had the chance to compete, I fully support Coach Gibbons and their decision to do what is best for their future,” Fourtney said.
Along with the difficulties of maintaining safety precautions, the team had to face understaffing for the athletic department. According to Fourtney, who is the only full-time communications staff member, there were six empty positions ranging from marketing to media relations. Currently, Fourtney is managing data for 17 sports teams. During a normal year, a team of staff work together for all the athletics, balancing different tasks, especially on game days. However, due to understaffing, Fourtney and others in the department have adapted to the situation by taking on responsibilities outside of their normal duties. The shortage of staff likely affected the team’s ability to continue the season.
Despite the events that made the season conclude early, the team remains optimistic for next season and looking forward to playing again.
“I look forward most to having an audience at our games, as the energy and high spirits from our fans is one of the biggest reasons why I love to play volleyball,” said Sadeghi.
This sentiment is also shared by Fourtney who added, “ I look forward to getting back to a full staff, having some sort of fans in attendance and seeing students back on campus… I miss the hallway conversations with coaches, learning the stories of student-athletes face-to-face and just being around all of the people within Pacific Athletics… Hopefully we keep trending the right way so we can all get back to being together!”