The captains of Men’s and Women’s Soccer along with Volleyball shared some insight into the current standing of their teams.
Upon recently being named as one of the new Women’s Soccer captains, Leah Kellogg said she has undergone a sense of relief with the postponement of the Fall 2020 season. She said she realizes the importance of playing the season under regular circumstances to get the most out of each match.
“Just knowing that we have a chance at maybe a more real season versus trying to force it in the fall,” Kellogg said.
However, the pandemic has brought along new obstacles that Kellogg said she has had to go through to keep the team in rhythm.
“There’s so much chaos and so many unknowns, so I think just trying to have a good attitude about everything related to [COVID-19] to keep the team on that high note is definitely a challenge,” Kellogg said.
Kellogg said the team does not “fully foresee too many restrictions” from San Luis Obispo County Public Health because soccer is labeled as a mid-risk sport. The program started socially distanced practices on Sept. 15th.
Along with rejoining with the returners, Kellogg said she believes that it is “really critical” to incorporate the new freshmen and new recruits into team activities to maintain the strong team chemistry that the program has constructed over the years.
“Before season, we had this whole captain’s week planned out with just a bunch of fun bonding and playing games with the team,” Kellogg said. “The goal is, if we get the ‘Okay’ eventually, is to do some of that stuff.”
Looking ahead, Kellogg said she is confident that the squad will “get back to where we left off” and come back stronger once fall sports get the green light to resume their seasons.
“We had some great momentum in winter quarter, we’re building and growing as a team and we were super excited to actually put that to the test in the spring,” Kellogg said. “Because we have that motivation and we’ve seen that potential in ourselves, I think we’ll make some big improvements.”
For the new Men’s Soccer captains, Josh Graham and Emmanuel Perez, they said wanting to take charge of the squad on and off the field during and after the season postponement is a priority for both of them.
Graham said he understands the effect that the postponement can have on teammates who have been “working hard all summer.” However, he said he realized that motivation and determination rub off on the players, and he said he has stepped up to set an example.
“For a little while, it was tough for me and I took a week off and I’ve kind of found it again,” Graham said. “It is tough, you’ve got to really dig deep and try to figure it out.”
As new team captains, Graham and Perez said they realize the weight that their voices carry to keep the team together as a unit.
“There was one off-the-field incident, it was during the Black Lives Matter movement, and I was a big voice in helping the team get our statement out as a team,” Graham said. “I felt that was super important for us.”
Alongside his current team responsibilities, Perez said he is prepared to add new duties to his captain role when the season resume, which he described as “administrative responsibilities.”
“Making sure everyone is wearing the same thing, everyone shows up early,” Perez said. “All the little things, making sure everything’s smooth for my team so they don’t have to worry about anything, they just show up and play soccer.”
With a new season comes new faces on the roster, and Graham and Perez said they assured early on that the new members feel like they are part of the team.
“The new guys, they’ve been communicating with us, they’re really excited, they’re working really hard. I talk to them a lot so we’re just all excited to get back together,” Perez said.
Envisioning past the postponement, both captains said they have their minds set on championship titles. The main message Perez said he wants to get through to his teammates is that “the sky is the limit.”
“Big West, the only thing we want, the only thing we want at all, that’s all our eyes are sat on,” Graham said.
“[I] just try my best to show everyone the work it takes and the effort it takes to be successful,” Perez said.
The official Volleyball program’s coaches are unable to physically interact and participate with the team in the gym through the pre-season, so captains Maia Dvoracek and Meredith Phillips have temporarily taken on the responsibilities as “coaches” of the program.
“With Maia and I right now running practices, it really isn’t in our job description, but we’ve had to take on that [coaching] role since [COVID-19] and everything that’s happened,” Phillips said.
Despite the fact that Volleyball players have had access to Mott Athletics Center throughout the pre-season, when it came to training over the summer season, the pandemic brought on new challenges that the captains said they had to adapt to prevent a performance setback from the team.
“What we’re doing right now in the gym is unlike anything we’ve ever done before,” Phillips said. “We’re always scrimmaging, and we’ve had to completely change how we play volleyball and how we’re getting to practice.”
Without the presence of the official coaches, Phillips said team members seem unmotivated, and this obligated the captains to speak out to get them all “on the same page.”
“At the beginning, we did kind of get a little bit of pushback and we kind of both put our foot down and were like ‘I’m sorry, but this is what we’re allowed to do right now and we need to be together as a team and we need to do what we can to get better,’” Phillips said.
However, the captains said they feel that there is more than preparation to have a successful season. For them, they said building team chemistry among the whole roster has been a top priority.
“We’re really trying to work on creating that off the court cohesion, because as much as we work on the court, it’s not going to help if we can’t get the team all bonded when it comes to being off the court,” Dvoracek said.
As a result of the additional duties that the captains have had to manage through the pre-season, they said they are eager for their coaches to return and take charge.
“Once we can get back away from this voluntary time, we can bond more as teammates rather than [be] the two girls that tell everyone what to do,” Dvoracek said.
Every program will adhere to county as well as university health and safety guidelines, and each program will have strategies on handling the postponement of the Fall 2020 season.
All students, including athletes, are expected to comply with the basic health requirements mandated by Cal Poly.