After the Great Lakes Valley Conference postponed numerous fall sports seasons in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, some teams now have their first game of the spring season in sight.
Head Coach Ben Briney said he and the team are excited about the opportunity to play and plan to make the most of it with a conference championship. This year, a conference championship is the farthest the team can go because there will not be regional or national NCAA opportunities.
The only aspect that’s really different for the team is the time of year, Briney said, otherwise preparations for the season are the same.
“One of the things we talk about in our program is you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable,” Briney said. “We’re going to travel to start the year in the cold instead of the heat and we’re going to have to deal with the snow and ice and freezing rain — things we wouldn’t necessarily deal with in the fall, COVID stuff aside.”
Briney said he is focusing on what’s going to happen on the court, and the other issues will take care of themselves.
He said one of the strengths this season is that the players were ready to go as soon as the semester started, which he credits to the team’s dedicated mentality.
“[The seniors] are really doing a good job with being in some ways almost in mid-season form now as opposed to in mid-February, and they’re being a great example to the rest of the team,” Briney said.
Along with strong dedication, Briney said the team is tight-knit and the effects of COVID-19 have only made them closer. He said it’s not an aspect he’s concerned about this season. There are also natural opportunities for bonding while the team is traveling, Briney added.
This season, the team only has one overnight trip, which Briney said should make for a more enjoyable season than typical fall seasons that usually require the team to make multiple overnight trips.
One of the features of the new spring schedule is the addition of tri-matches. There will be five occasions throughout the season during which the Bulldogs will face two conference opponents on the same day.
“The tri-matches are going to be a fun, neat experience,” Briney said. “We really don’t do a lot of tri-matches during the year from a conference standpoint … it’ll be a new experience, but we’re just excited we get that opportunity.”
Briney said if the team is successful this spring, he wants to use that momentum going into the fall to possibly win two conference championships within the same calendar year and play for the national championship.
Briney said this season is especially important for the team’s three seniors, who will now get to play through the end of their senior year. Seniors Emma Berthold, Sam Yancy and Ellie Kaat have also stepped up as leaders, Briney said, and set the example for the rest of the team.