They still have plenty of obstacles to navigate en route to a GNAC volleyball campaign, but Friday's news of a spring season was good news for head coach Gina Schmidt's team, who are savouring their moments to be back in the gym together and training as a team. (Photo by Paul Yates property of SFU athletics 2020. All Rights Reserved)
Feature University Women's Volleyball

Simon Fraser fall sports like volleyball, soccer spring forward to 2021! “We still have that carrot to go after” says SFU coach Gina Schmidt

BURNABY — Simon Fraser University volleyball players know that a lot of things are still going to have to happen in order for some semblance of a Great Northwest Athletic Conference season to unfold in the new year.

Yet just as they were set to take to the West Gym court late Friday afternoon, head coach Gina Schmidt was preparing to officially address her ladies with some good news.

The GNAC’s CEO board had earlier in the day announced that it had approved plans to move its fall sports of volleyball, and men’s and women’s soccer to the spring 2021 season.

“There has been talk of this decision for a while, so that is where we had been placing all of our hope, so it’s good to hear that it was actually approved,” said Schmidt.

“We’re remaining hopeful that we will be able to play in the spring,” she continued, before cautiously adding “…obviously the border will be an obstacle and there are other hurdles with COVID, but we’re grateful to be training again together, and staying hopeful that we’ll be able to actually play some other people in the spring.”

Friday’s news bulletin from the GNAC also addressed the fate of the conference’s winter sports.

Conference play in men’s and women’s basketball, as well as indoor track and field, can begin no earlier than Jan. 7, if feasible, with no outside competition to take place before that date. Of course the same border concerns would have to be resolved for Simon Fraser teams in those sports to compete.

The news release added that “Given concerns about the prospects of playing two seasons in the same calendar year, football will not play a conference-developed schedule for the spring 2021 season. Athletic directors requested institutional autonomy in developing the makeup of their spring schedules, providing teams the opportunity to focus on conditioning, acclimatization and preparing for the upcoming fall season after a nearly 12-month break from the sport.”

Discussions are still continuing on the best course of action for cross-country, another fall sport in which SFU has traditionally excelled in.

For her part, Schmidt said everyone in her program got back to work when they got the green light, carrying the positive mindset that Friday’s news was going to eventually become a reality.

“It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen,” she said of being able to play GNAC matches in 2021, “but I was at least optimistic that the NCAA was going to look at that, just based on what has happened in Div. 1 in other sports. “I guess we were of the mindset that this was never not going to be an option. I know (the players) are happy for this, and that we still have that carrot to go after.”

More than anything, perhaps, was the simple fact that they were back to being with each other again, and that after such a lengthy absence from the court, they were ready to face their uncertain future together. 

“It has been an interesting past few months and there’s still a lot of uncertainty surrounding this entire season,” began Schmidt. “But I do know that after having six months away from the game, everyone was really excited to get into the gym. Just being in a gym, being able to touch a ball, and be around teammates. They are so grateful for that. If we can compete, that’s a bonus. 

“It’s made us all appreciate how great it is to be back and we’re taking it one day at a time, grateful for every moment we have to be together.”

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