A COVID-19 diagnosis put the Blair volleyball team's preseason on hiatus.
As they quarantined just short of two weeks, the Bears missed practice, fall sports photo day and their jamboree exhibition matches at Fremont Bergan. Thankfully, they returned in time for a week's worth of practice before Thursday's season-opener at Plattsmouth, which will be recapped in next week's Washington County Pilot-Tribune.
“In quarantine it was very boring, and I really missed playing,” senior Carley Damme said. “But I'm really glad to be back at school and back at practice.”
Another BHS senior, Emma Cada, said it was difficult going without seeing her teammates. She saw their faces on video screens, but it wasn't the same.
The Bears weren't using their situation as an excuse Monday before practice, however. They expected to be ready for games to start even if their practice time together can't match that of their opposition.
“A lot of girls were doing workouts and touching volleyballs during our quarantine, so I don't want to say we were off for two weeks,” Damme said. “We were just at a slower pace for two weeks.”
That pace quickened Aug. 27 — a substitute photo day — when coach Brandi Nicholson's squad took part in a spirited practice upon its return.
“I think we'll definitely be OK, because we can make up for it,” Damme said.
Cada cited her team's experience. The Bears return six starters — Cada, Damme, Megan McKeon, Schuyler Roewert, Grace Wibbels and Morgan Potts — and eight total letter winners including Ella Ross and Claire Gochanour. Another player, Hailey Baker, is a senior.
“I definitely think we have a veteran starting six this year,” Cada said. “We've pulled up a few new people, but I think our chemistry has definitely helped make up for the time that we did lose.”
“I think we play really well as a team,” she said. “We all get along as friends on and off the court. I think that makes a big difference when you have the bonding that we do.”
Newcomers have even bonded with the vets. Cada was complimentary of Gochanour, who has rejoined the team after a year away, and freshman Joslyn Policky.
Another teammate, Cada said, is ready for a breakout year now that she's more seasoned.
“I would say Megan Mckeon has 100 percent improved so, so much,” Cada said. “She's made leaps and bounds.”
Overall, the Bears are just excited to be back to show off their talents in their sport. Damme said she hopes her team can produce wins during her final year, but she's also hopeful there won't be any more quarantine time away from the court.
“I don't want to have to do that again or have the season cut short,” the senior said, doubling down. “Yeah, I don't want that.”