With school back in session and fall sports just around the corner after a longer than expected break, the Tennessee Lady Vols volleyball team is excited and more than ready for this upcoming season.
A prepared coaching staff, led by head coach Eve Rackham, has been hard at work training the team for a season that is guaranteed to look different than previous years. Overall, the team is just excited to have the opportunity to play after months of uncertainty.
“There was so much concern that we weren’t going to have a season at all and I know that there is a majority of the country that isn’t playing volleyball at all this fall, so I just feel fortunate for our players that we’re getting a chance to compete,” Rackham said. “I look forward to everyday being in the gym, and that’s where we all probably feel the most normal, which is what everyone has been searching for for the last six months, just a feeling of normalcy.”
The team is taking various precautions to stay safe and healthy during this season. From masks to social distancing, Rackham and her players have done an excellent job following protocol and expectations set by the university and NCAA.
Junior outside hitter, Lily Felts, is looking forward to having the chance to play and is excited to grow individually and as a team.
“I’m so looking forward to being back on the court with my teammates,” Felts said. “Taking four months off was really hard because my teammates are my best friends so not getting to see them was really difficult. I’m on the court with them in practice but being able to compete against another team really creates a bond with your teammates that you can’t create in another environment.”
Felts is expected to be a key player for the Lady Vols this year and has shown her leadership on and off the court for the last two years. Her hope for Tennessee’s new players is that they don’t take their time at UT for granted, especially with the current state of the season.
“I want these new players to take advantage of every opportunity they have,” Felts said. “We didn’t know our spring was going to get cut short and we didn’t know that our season would get cut short like this. So I’d say take advantage of every moment you get to step foot in the gym, every weight you get to lift, every pass you get to pass, every hit and set because you never know when something like this could happen.”
Rackham and the team are looking to dominate this season and are learning from past mistakes. Whether it’s going for every point or strong communication on the court, the Lady Vols are ready to take on new opponents and are more prepared than ever.
“Every season is a new season and this team looks different in a lot of ways than we did a year ago,” Rackham said. “We have a lot of new players and even those returning are going to be in different roles so there are some lessons to be learned for everyone. We lost a few matches in five sets last year so we’ve talked a little bit about that, just valuing points more and understanding that a lot of sets are going to come down to those two or three points.”
Despite the unpredictability of 2020, Rackham and the Lady Vols are equipped to command this season and take on any new or old competition with confidence.
Their first game will take place on Friday, Oct. 16, at 7 p.m. ET against the Kentucky Wildcats in Lexington.