The 2020 South Carolina volleyball season will consist of a shortened schedule against four SEC teams due to COVID-19 concerns. The four teams the Gamecocks will face, in order, are Georgia, Auburn, Tennessee and Florida.
Each team will be played in a doubleheader fashion, with two matches in one weekend. The season is set to begin at 2 p.m. at Georgia on Saturday. This match will be followed by a second Georgia matchup the next day.
“Most of the summer, we weren’t even sure if we could play at all, so I think we’re just happy to have these eight,” redshirt sophomore setter Courtney Weber said.
COVID-19 has caused many adjustments to be made to ensure each team is safe during the season, including limited seating, only permitting fall practice and intrasquad matches and not allowing outside team exhibitions.
Masks have also been a big part of this preseason in order to keep players safe, but players will no longer be required to wear them during official matches.
Players also lost summer workouts due to COVID-19, which has caused a more limited training load in order to keep athletes healthy while easing them back into play.
“Right now, we're just trying to compartmentalize,” head coach Tom Mendoza said. “The spring is going to definitely be unique.”
After this shortened season, a longer season with an official NCAA final is planned to take place in the spring. The spring season is dependent on how well COVID-19 outbreaks can be prevented within the league.
The fall season's cancellation is still a possibility, with much speculation about whether or not a COVID-19 outbreak will occur during the upcoming season.
“We're really a spring sport this year,” Mendoza said. “We’re going to play eight matches, hopefully, this fall, but the championship is going to be in the spring.”
The team lost several seniors at the end of last season and was worried it could lose several more this year after a smaller season, according to Mendoza.
“It’s kind of a bummer to build up the last three years to this,” senior outside hitter Jess Vastine said. “It is what it is, and we’ll try to make it the best situation possible.”
The NCAA announced it will offer fall student athletes an extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19's effects. This gives the Gamecocks a chance to maintain their seniors' talent for next year’s season.
With much speculation about how the season will play out and limited preseason preparation, the Gamecocks are still confident in their abilities to compete this season, according to Mendoza. He said they are looking to fully complete the smaller fall season and eventually return to the women’s volleyball tournament in the spring.
“When we look at the things that are going to allow us to be successful on a national level, I think this group is stronger in those areas than any of the teams that we’ve had so far," Mendoza said.