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Volleyball deals with emotional challenges of COVID-19 training

As fall sports in the Big East remain postponed, women’s volleyball head coach Allison Yaeger and senior middle blocker Amanda Rachwal broke down how the team has been training and getting ready to play a spring season under the COVID-19 guidelines.

“It’s very different,” Yaeger said. “The girls wear masks when we train, and at times, we are conditioning. I think it’s hard and I can’t imagine being in their position having to train as Division I athletes and wear masks, so my hat goes off to my student-athletes.”

Yaeger said the team is looking surprisingly good in training and added that the atmosphere on the court is as electric as ever, despite the long hiatus from training together. 

“I’m happy with all of the effort the girls have put in in these six months they haven’t seen each other,” Yaeger said. “Our freshmen look great and our gym is loud. I’ve never been through anything like this before, so I don’t have all of the answers. It’s tough because I’m used to having answers for my girls when they come to me.” 

She added, “Now as a team, sometimes I don’t know how hard or easy to go or if I’m pushing them hard enough.”

With three new freshmen on the roster—two coming from Illinois where state COVID-19 restrictions differ from those in New Jersey—they have been able to get their hands on a ball and train more frequently than other members of the team.

The benefit of putting together the 2021 recruitment class early has put Yaeger and her coaching staff at ease. However, the class of 2022 would usually be visiting campus by now and making connections with the current players, the coaching staff and the school in general.

The Pirates’ class of 2021 included Rachwal and Libero Elizabeth Sottung. Yaeger said she wishes it could have ended differently for both of them.

“They were really emotional last spring,” Yaeger said. “As a coaching staff, we prepared our team to make sure they knew this was going to be a possibility that our season wasn’t going to happen and could be postponed until spring. We’ve stayed safe and healthy as team, an athletic department and as a University.”

As Rachwal entered her senior year, she said she never saw her athletic career going out like this. The pandemic is something she saw as only lasting a few months, she said, not interfering with her final year with the team.

“With practices, it’s something all of us athletes can relate to,” Rachwal said. “We’re all struggling right now, and for being at this school for three years, this season is something that I’ve never experienced before. Even for the freshman, this definitely is not the college experience that they wanted, but I think with our practices that a lot of other schools don’t even get to do is helping them adjust to the school more.”

Jenna Powell can be reached at

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