BOONE COUNTY — Following Boone County’s designation as orange on the state’s COVID-19 color-coded map system and subsequent changeover to Gov. Jim Justice’s new gold status, Boone County Schools’ extracurricular sports were brought to a standstill last week. Soccer and volleyball coaches from Scott, Sherman, and Van Junior-Senior high schools worked with student athletes to carry out conditioning rather than normal practices, and worked to reinforce safety for students.
Scott High School girls’ soccer has notably been out of practice since last Tuesday, after it was discovered that a student from the team had come in contact with the virus the previous Friday. Head Coach Woody Hunter’s team was told to quarantine until Sept. 26. Hunter explained that parents have been unhappy with the focus on Scott’s soccer program as the cause of stoppage, something they say has been a singling out of the teams.
“We’ve been waiting until we’re told what’s going to go down,” says Hunter.
Even with quarantine ending on the Sept. 26, the team will be unable to go back to practice until Sept. 28, the following Monday. The pause has affected the soccer season for longer at Scott, as Boone County Schools Superintendent Jeff Huffman notified Hunter that the girls will not be playing as long as they do not attend school. Hunter has been prioritizing safety for the Lady Hawks.
“The majority of my team has gotten tested… as of today (Sept. 18), everybody has come back negative,” said Hunter, who continues to encourage testing and communication of test results from his players. “We’re trying out best to take care of this issue, and to make sure the team is healthy and safe when we hopefully resume. We’re not turning a blind eye to the problem.”
Coach Angie Lilly of Sherman High girls’ soccer has been keeping her girls in practice during the break. With junior Emily Ceravolo and freshman Kailee Eskins still recovering from injuries, the stoppage has at least provided time for athletes to rest and heal.
“(We’re) practicing with new set up and positions in absence of those players,” Lilly said.
The team has been focusing on controlling the game and passing more frequently. Lilly says she wants to keep spirits high and give the girls an outlet from the stresses of remote learning.
Lady Skyhawks volleyball coach Liz Underwood has continued with practice. Her hope is that further testing will aid in driving down the county’s positivity rate.
“We have been doing a lot of inter-squad scrimmages versus drills in order to try and be ‘game ready’ in case we get the green light to play,” Underwood said. “The girls remain upbeat and hopeful in practice.”
After the first few matches of the season, she said, she sees potential in the Scott squad and hopes the players can hold onto their early promise in spite of the pause.
Coach Terri Dawn Williams of Sherman volleyball laments the loss of the week of games.
“It has been hard to keep the girls motivated,” she said. “We have been conditioning and trying to stay game-ready.”
Williams said she thinks the West Virginia SSAC does not realize the impact stoppage has on athletes who get into the rhythm of playing for a week and are then unable to play for another.
“This isn’t good for sports,” Williams said. “If everyone doesn’t have the same opportunity to play, how is that fair?”
She said she is concerned about how the SSAC will seed tournaments in cases where teams miss substantially more regular season games than others.
“How is it fair for one team to have played 25 matches and another only 5-10? I love sports and hate to see the kids not get to play, but is it worth it?” she questioned.
Nevertheless, Williams said, the Lady Tide will continue to condition and stay in shape for games.
Van volleyball coach Bonnie Chambers has been holding conditioning without volleyballs. She says it has given her and Assistant Coach Betty Brown the chance to work on physicality and movement.
“The girls, of course, are disappointed with the current halt in play,” Chambers said. “We have had to cancel several matches that they were looking forward to.”
In her opinion, she said, the break in the season will hurt every team affected.
“It’s hard to overcome your weaknesses when you don’t get to compete,” she said.
Because Van’s roster includes many newcomers, lost games will dampen efforts to improve through game experience. Despite this, having a group of hard workers that includes skilled returners has made her excited for the remainder of the season. She said she is thankful for the work put in by Betty Brown, who as assistant coach gets along well with the girls and works alongside them excellently.
Looking ahead, Chambers said she expects to roll with the irregular season as it happens.
“We will just continue to practice and try to become a united team, and, hopefully, win some games.”