William Masselli ~ Sports Columnist
University of Lynchburg Interim Women’s Volleyball Head Coach, Hannah Givens is enthusiastic about resuming the postponed volleyball season in spring 2021.
Givens said, “When I stepped foot on the campus, I easily realized how special this University is. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would become head coach, but I am so thankful that I have been given this opportunity. I wanted to become a hornet because I saw the community that the individuals here shared. When you talk to the students, faculty, and staff, it is obvious that being a hornet is something that everyone is proud of.”
Despite not being able to coach any matches yet as head coach, Givens has experience as she was the assistant coach last year for Head Coach Beth Ellinger, her predecessor at the University of Lynchburg.
Givens said, “This is my first year as the interim head coach, and it has been such a blast. I was promoted to interim head coach in April, so in the beginning of the COVD period. Throughout the first few months, I did most of my work recruiting and getting ready for the fall season that we thought we were going to have. Once July rolled around and we realized that we would not have a fall season, I found myself working on touching up areas of the locker room, working on gear, and preparing for my assistant [Ryan Turner] to come in. During this time, we were in a limbo when students were coming back and when we were going to start practicing to get ready for the season that got pushed to the spring. The athletic department, our athletic director, and all of the athletic training staff worked so hard to make sure that we understood all the protocols to keep our students safe. Throughout the past few weeks, we have been able to practice in small groups and with masks on. It has been so much fun, and the girls are so appreciative to be back in the gym.”
Despite the unpredictability of the fall season Givens said, “I think my most memorable moment was the first team meeting when everyone was back on campus. The girls were so excited to see each other after so many months, and they wouldn’t stop talking! It made me so happy to have everyone back together again.”
Givens also said, “This first year has been crazy because of COVID, protocols, and not having a fall season. I have learned so much though, and can only imagine how smoothly the next few seasons I coach will be! My message for the freshmen players was to just come in ready to practice, make relationships with your teammates, and focus on grades. This will be one of the hardest semesters, so they always have to make sure that they are on top of their grades.”
The volleyball team is adhering to strict pandemic protocols. Givens said, “Our team response has been positive, especially after seeing the case numbers go down so drastically! We are all very aware of what needs to be done to stay on campus, and the team has taken that very seriously. Since we are one of the only indoor sports able to practice right now, we are wearing masks during practice, and can only take them off when getting water (making sure that we sanitize before and are 6 ft. apart). My message to everyone is to just enjoy being back and being able to play/coach the sport you love. This could be taken away from us again in a heartbeat, so we walk into the gym everyday giving 100%.”
New recruit Alexis Horner said, “Initially, when I found out that the conference games would be postponed to the Spring, I was slightly disappointed. However, I quickly realized that this was the best-case scenario for our team. The opportunity to have all fall to train and practice with my teammates is one that I don’t take for granted. While we may not be playing games at the moment, our practices cultivate a healthy competitive environment that inspires each player to learn and grow. In the past couple of weeks, practicing with my team has pushed me to be a better athlete and made me hungrier for an ODAC win in the Spring.”
Senior player Natalie Lavelle said, “While not having a fall season is not how I wanted to kick off my senior year, I am grateful for this opportunity to continue to train during the fall season with my teammates. It affords us more time to work as a team and work out the kinks before touching the court to compete in the spring season. I see it as a blessing in disguise. I think having this time to train as a group will prove to be very beneficial in the spring. Returning to practices has gotten me more excited for a spring season, I can finally see it getting closer. I have maintained confidence in a spring season since we returned back on campus in August. Our team has taken advantage of every opportunity to get better and dominate in the spring. The potential of not having a spring season has stayed far out of our minds. We are fueled by the motivation that spring 2021 is our year to rise and we will keep it that way until any decisions are made about not playing in the spring.”