When the St. Pius X and Lutheran High North volleyball teams squared off Tuesday night, it was more than a simple season opener.
It was the hopeful beginning of getting back to a relative state of normal in area high school sports as the two squads were the first local teams to return to action amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. So while second-year St. Pius X head coach Clare Brockman called the outing on the court “as successful as can be” following a straight-set victory over the Lady Lions, she knows it’s more than a match.
“We just have to be grateful for what we have, because a lot of people can’t be playing or practicing,” she said. “I’m trying to help (the girls) have the mindset of gratitude and not always finding what’s wrong, because there’s a lot that has gone wrong.”
Over the past six months, a city- and statewide shutdown created many obstacles for Brockman as well as first-year Lutheran High North head coach Mike Hess as they worked to get their squads ready for Tuesday night’s return.
One of those of those obstacles for Hess is coaching a team of just nine players – much smaller than past LHN squads. But it hasn’t impacted their enthusiasm.
“I think the girls that are on the team are really enjoying being able to do something and have some sense of normalcy,” he said. “We’re chugging along trying to be as safe as we can, doing everything we can to try and keep things going, because it’s important for the kids to have something to look forward to.”
He said COVID-19 played a role in the reduction of players, throwing a wrench into his inaugural season at the school. However, he said he has not let that stop him or his team.
“In the preseason, when they were having to make decisions on whether to play or not, everything was spiking – so people were very reluctant to come out,” he said. “We’re hoping a few more people come along, but I’m happy to have the girls that I do. They all come in and work hard.”
The same can be said for Brockman as the team adjusted to game protocols beginning Tuesday, such as no pregame or postgame handshakes, or even potential scheduling changes.
Ultimately, she tells her team to only worry about what it can control, such as social distance protocols and wearing masks when needed.
“It takes a little bit of extra work, but I think it’s worth it in the long run,” she said. “Because the kids are learning, and now they get to play.”