By Kyle Daubs

If this were a normal year, Lake Land volleyball would not be preparing for a spring season.

Instead, it has been more than a year since the Lakers took the court.

Like other sports, the volleyball team is trying to find ways to stay prepared. 

“At first, it was difficult because volleyball was in unchartered territory,” said head coach Ashli Wicker.  “In a normal year, we begin and end our championship season in the fall starting August 1 through the middle of November.  We would then have a spring season for player development and scrimmages.  With our year being flipped, we have had to navigate a new and different way to train and develop.”

Entering her sixth season with the program, Wicker said this year has been the most challenging.  

“It was a big challenge for me at the beginning of the year,” said Wicker.  “I am used to going fast and furious on August 1 and never really have a lot of time to prepare the way other sports can lead up to their official seasons.  We have been able to slow some things down and just find a way to make it through the fall while focusing on January at the same time.”

Lake Land is coming off a Fall 2019 season in which it finished 23-15 overall and 11-3 in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference. The team has used its 60 contact days during the fall practice season. Teams were also given five scrimmage dates in total for the year. 

A spring season will officially start on Jan. 4 with the first game set for Jan. 22 at home against Spoon River College. That begins a six-match homestead for the Lakers that runs through Feb. 5. 

There is still a fear the season could be shut down at any moment. 

“I think that is a common feeling amongst everyone involved in college athletics right now, even those around the country that have been able to participate or start their seasons,” said Wicker.  “There is a lot in jeopardy, but we take it a day at a time and our student-athletes continue to do what we ask them to do, adjust to our new safety protocols, etc. We are looking forward to having the chance to start competing in January.”

The season will be a shortened. Teams have 21 competition dates and regional and district competitions must be completed by April 3. 

Lake Land’s team features a few familiar faces with Morgan Parsons from Shelbyville, Ashlyn Jones from Casey-Westfield, Erica Michels from Teutopolis and Abby Kallis from Charleston. 

For now, the team is focusing on closing out the school year. In the past, Wicker’s teams have won numerous accomplishments for their performance in the classroom. That includes three NJCAA Academic Team awards and nine NJCAA Academic All-American Awards. 

“We are staying positive and taking it a day at a time,” said Wicker. “All we want is a chance to compete, so we can feel a type of normalcy for these student-athletes and their experience as collegiate student-athletes.  We can’t play without academics so we have been focusing on the classroom. The virtual environment in the classroom has been an additional challenge during this time that the student-athletes have been navigating as well.”