Upcoming games contingent on Rollins COVID-19 positivity rates
On Mar. 12, Rollins Volleyball will kick-start its season against the University of Tampa if the on-campus positivity rate decreases to five percent. The Volleyball Tars are the first, and so far only, Fall sport to play a Spring schedule.
“It is so exciting to be able to play after so long,” said Team Captain Marlee Johnson (‘22). “This time has been full of learning moments both on the court, and in terms of our team culture. I can’t wait to put into action what we have been doing in practice for over a year.”
Head Coach Mika Robinson said that the team is ready to see a different color jersey across the net. This will be her fifth season at the helm of the Tars.
Not every Sunshine State Conference (SSC) institution is fielding a team; Robinson had to work out the Rollins Spring schedule with coaches from five other SSC schools.
College-instituted pauses and no competitive opportunities in Fall 2020 has challenged the Tars and given them new areas of focus.
“We have focused on improving all of our skill-sets while also building a strong and cohesive team culture. We are incredibly proud of the resilience and strength this group has shown throughout this year,” said Robinson.
One of the main challenges for the players was a lack of interactions due to the pandemic. But leaders like Johnson consider the setbacks a blessing in disguise.
“Volleyball is such a team sport, and the most successful teams typically have the best chemistry. Not being able to be together as a team has really pushed us to find new ways of connecting with one another,” Johnson said.
The Tars are better able to push each other in practice because they have had more time than usual to establish those off-the-court relationships, Johnson said.
Robinson said she anticipates a dynamic team that is going to be fun to watch this season.
“They have worked hard to become a much more aggressive serving team, and we will always be looking to be on the offensive, which means a lot of big swings,” Robinson said. “This Spring will see quite a few new players making their college debut, and we expect the team to fare well.”
She expects game experience to help young players become comfortable in their roles, especially with some of them expected to make key contributions.
Johnson expects growth, and she hopes that growth will translate to wins: “Our conference is one of the most competitive in the country, and anyone can beat anyone else on any given night.”
With no seniors on the roster, Robinson said she is certain that the leadership from the junior class will be obvious even to the casual observer, as they will treat this Spring as a prelude to their senior campaign.
Johnson acknowledges the challenges and learning points, but she said she is grateful for the rare opportunity and the way her fellow juniors have stepped up in their own ways.
Johnson said, “We have really learned to rely on each other in order to lead our team to our goals. It’s a unique situation, but how cool is it that we have had so much time to get leadership experience under our belts together?”
In doing so, she believes they are setting the blueprint for younger players who are willing to learn and are looking to become leaders one day.
Robinson said a Spring schedule will not get in the way of the Fall. She sees a significant number of Spring games as a boost, unlike other sports.
What she does find concerning is the recent positivity rate, which jeopardizes the team’s ability to compete: “It has been such a long year, so to get this close and have cases rise now is obviously disappointing,” Robinson said.
Rollins has extended its athletic hold until Thursday, Mar. 11. The Friday game should proceed as planned, provided the campus positivity rate falls below five percent.
“Like everyone else, we are all becoming weary of all of the COVID-19 restrictions, but I want to encourage everyone to please keep doing your part to keep our campus infection numbers low,” said Robinson. “These athletes have worked so hard to have this opportunity to compete, and we so appreciate everyone’s efforts to make that a reality.”