Sac State volleyball practicing indoors ahead of scheduled spring season

The team adapts to indoor safety protocols


Sara Nevis

Senior outside hitter Macey Hayden spikes the ball over the net during the Sac State volleyball team practice at Yosemite Hall at Sacramento State Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. All participants are required to wear a mask while at practice.

Gavin Rock

Since Sacramento State’s closure and cancellation of sporting events last spring, junior setter Ashtin Olin said she went home to spend time with family, waiting to find out when she would be able to play with her teammates again.

During spring, Sac State volleyball teammates and roommates Olin and senior outside hitter Macey Hayden said their biggest concerns revolved around the unknown future.

“We were in the middle of our beach season, we were getting packed up to go to a tournament and got a call saying ‘the tournament is cancelled today,’” Hayden said. “At the next team meeting we learned the season was cancelled. Everything happened one day within a few hours. Since that day, our lives have been in a weird, unknown spiral.”

Now that the volleyball team is back together, Olin said she believes the team has a deeper appreciation for each other and the ability to play together consistently.

“We’re never away from each other for that long, and away from playing volleyball for that long,” Olin said. “It’s been more tight-knit than usual because of the time we spent away from each other.”

After several months of practicing on the sand of Sac State’s beach volleyball courts, the volleyball team began indoor practice on Oct. 5 according to an email sent by Ryan Bjork, assistant communications director for Sac State Athletics. Bjork said players are required to wear masks during practice, as mandated by a combination of school, county and NCAA safety guidelines.

Senior defensive specialist Michelle Taynton said although masks are difficult to exercise with, it is preferable to not playing at all. 

“They’re obviously uncomfortable because you always have to make sure it stays up, but it’s really not a big deal.” Taynton said. “At least when we’re wearing them we’re allowed to play indoors, which is what we all like.”

Prior to practicing indoors, the team could only practice in small groups to minimize a potential outbreak. Taynton said indoor practice is good for camaraderie because it allows the team to be active together.

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Initially, volleyball could practice eight hours per week, splitting between four hours of competitive play and four hours of weight training, according to head coach Ruben Volta. As of Oct. 21, the team has been allowed to practice for 20 hours a week.

Brandon Padilla, director of athletic training at Sac State, said now that the team is practicing 20 hours a week, they are required to test about 25% of the players once a week for COVID-19. Once the team begins practicing full time, all players will need to test once per week.

“We’ve moved money around to make sure we can do the things we need to do to allow people to play,” Padilla said. “If it was a situation where we weren’t able to do testing, we wouldn’t be able to move them [players] forward.”

Assistant Athletic Director Brian Berger said via email that student-athletes may not decline testing. He also said that should players refuse testing, they may opt out for the year but are prohibited from participating in any and all team activities.

According to Berger, all sports at Sac State will likely follow current NCAA guidelines for basketball, which require players to be tested for COVID-19 three times per week during the season.

The NCAA Division 1 Council scheduled Division 1 schools’ volleyball seasons to begin on Jan. 22 next year. Volta said that match dates are still in the works, and due to the number of sports planned for spring play, volleyball may have an irregular schedule. 

Volta said the team’s schedule could be altered depending on facility availability at competing schools. For example, they’ve usually competed on Thursday or Saturday, but that could change to Friday or Sunday.

Olin said she is hopeful competition won’t be cancelled, but will not be surprised if the team does not play.

“I’ve been disappointed so many times by now, and I think we’ll be fine by then, but if it does get cancelled I won’t be surprised,” Olin said. “We’re used to it by this point.”