Volleyball trying to mitigate COVID-19 effects on 2020 season

Head Coach Christy Johnson-Lynch talks to the press Aug. 14, 2018, during Iowa State volleyball’s media day at Hilton Coliseum.

Sam Stuve

With players back on campus for voluntary workouts, the Iowa State volleyball team is ramping up for the 2020 season, which could look different than most seasons.

Iowa State’s 2020 schedule could look different than it has in the past and the team has implemented mitigation efforts to prevent the potential spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Iowa State Head Coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said, “It looks like the Big 12 will go to a doubleheader schedule [two matches in two days at the same venue against the same team] for volleyball.”

Big 12 matches are normally on Wednesdays and Sundays from late September/early October through November but may see these changes to reduce travel and potential exposure to COVID-19.

For non-Big 12 matches, Johnson-Lynch said they are trying to stay “as local as possible,” and won’t fly to play matches.

Last season, Iowa State traveled to Boone, North Carolina; Oxford, Mississippi and Iowa City, Iowa, for nonconference tournaments.

This season, Johnson-Lynch said the virus has affected “every one of the tournaments that we were planning on,” and it is a “little bit of a wait and see” on who it can play.

“We’re ready to be very flexible; it might mean the week of we figure out who we’re playing that week based off of who we can play, who’s got enough athletes that we can compete against,” Johnson-Lynch said.

Iowa State cannot play Iowa in the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series match this year because the Big Ten Conference (Iowa’s conference) canceled nonconference games for its 14 schools in all fall sports. 

With more student-athletes returning to campus for voluntary workouts and more students set to return for classes in a month, the team is trying to taking measures to limit the potential of one of them getting the virus, according to Johnson-Lynch.

“Masks are required to be worn on campus, so we’re doing that, we’re going to work out in small groups that one, allows us to practice social distancing easier, but also if someone does test positive then it reduces the number of people who have been in close contact with that positive COVID case,” Johnson-Lynch said. “We’re also being very careful about sanitizing, washing hands, cleaning equipment and that kind of stuff.”

Johnson-Lynch said health and safety come first and the team will be cautious with the virus.

“We have to do the best we can to not get COVID and that’s kind of the bottom line,” Johnson-Lynch said. “Even if they [a player] have mild symptoms, they’re going to be out for an extended amount of time.”

Creating a “bubble” has been discussed by others, such as Iowa State football Head Coach Matt Campbell, to help prevent an individual from getting the virus.

As more students come back in the coming weeks, Johnson-Lynch said she is asking the team to “stay in the bubble” as much as it can.

“If you’re walking to class and sitting in class, you have to have your mask and socially distance as much as you can and you have to be really careful who you’re hanging out with,” Johnson-Lynch said. “You really just can’t go out and socialize with groups of people, even with family coming to campus you have to be careful about how much you interact with family members who may work in crowded areas or be exposed as well. All of those things have to be planned out, with travel we have to be careful as well, the testing protocols that still have to be figured out, how often do we test, how much time should there be between a test and then playing another team.”

No Iowa State volleyball players are reported to have tested positive for the virus, but more test results could be pending.

Despite the mitigation efforts teams may put in place, the potential for the spread of the virus is still going to be there.

The virus may cause teams to have to be flexible with their lineups.

“We’ll be flexible with our lineups, we expect that we would have some cases as we go,” Johnson-Lynch said. “I don’t think that we can pretend or act like that’s just not going to happen. We’re planning that some people will be out at different times and so we’ll have to be ready to be flexible with our lineup.”

Johnson-Lynch said she expects the 2020 season to be a unique one, but it still could be a successful one.

She said the team needs to “be ready for a completely different season” than it has had before, be OK with that and “just because it’s an unusual season, doesn’t mean it can’t be a valuable one.”

The 2020 season schedule has not yet been released.