Woodland head volleyball coach David Condon knew he would need to put his mostly young squad through plenty of scrimmages and summer playdates to get them prepared for the 2020 season. Well, that …
Woodland head volleyball coach David Condon knew he would need to put his mostly young squad through plenty of scrimmages and summer playdates to get them prepared for the 2020 season.
Well, that didn't happen.
Like every single one of his coaching colleagues, Condon was forced to adjust on the fly due to COVID-19. After a long layoff, he was able to get some of his players in for weightlifting and eventually holding open gyms before conducting tryouts.
"It was obviously challenging," Condon said of the offseason. "I just wanted to be patient and wait to see what the GHSA was going to decide. ... We're just now getting to where we're practicing daily."
With the season set to open Wednesday at Cherokee, Condon hopes his younger players will be able to adjust on the fly to a varsity schedule. He admitted his team, which returns three players from last year's veteran group, isn't as ready for the regular season as the 2019 squad.
That being said, Condon hopes those returners will be able to help carry the Wildcats early. It means the onus will be on seniors Sydney Molinaro and Emmalee Cigainero, as well as junior Delaney Tuplin to come out of the gates strong.
"They're our most experienced and best players," Condon said of Molinaro and Cigainero. "I think that's just common knowledge, and then we have Delaney Tuplin who will come back. She's experienced, and she'll play a much bigger role this year. We're bringing up a couple of our juniors, particularly Cayley Stantz. ... She's ready to come in and fill a role. We really expect her to develop and make a lot of large contributions to the team during the season."
In addition to being the main focal points at the beginning of the season, Condon also expects his more experienced players, particularly Molinaro and Cigainero, to help his sophomores and freshmen get up to speed as quickly as possible.
"Emmalee does a really good job of leading by example; she always has," Condon said. "This year, she's become more vocal, which is nice. She's trying to coach the younger girls and explain stuff to them. Sydney started doing that last year and is doing it even more this year. It's always good as a coach when you can have two of your players to correct the other girls and let them know what they need to be doing — almost like court generals, making sure everything is going right. ...
"It's really nice to have that. We're pretty fortunate in that regard."
Condon will hope his young players settle in early, because Woodland's Region 7-AAAAA schedule will be wrapped up by this time next month. With trips to Hiram and Cartersville sandwiched around a tough home draw against reigning Class 4A state champion Blessed Trinity and Calhoun, the Wildcats will have played all of their region matches by Sept. 8.
"We feel like we can at least be competitive with Cass, Cartersville and Hiram," Condon said of how he sees the new region shaping up. "... We want to get the most we can out of our matches with the two, we consider, powerhouses [Blessed Trinity and Calhoun] of the region. But we really feel like we'll have some good opportunities and good chances to be competitive with those other three teams."
Even still, Condon isn't too worried about the front-loaded nature of the schedule. There is still a plan to hold a region tournament, meaning those regular-season contests should just be for seeding purposes.
Regardless of whether or not the Wildcats are able to claw their way into the 5A state playoffs, Condon believes his program can still have a successful campaign — even if the offseason provided a significant hurdle to clear.
"I'm not really that concerned about it, because we've got some really strong teams in our region," Condon said of the league schedule. "Having the region playdates later wouldn't have influenced our region record that much more anyway, so this season, I'm really not that concerned about it.
"All I'm worried about for us this season is that we continue to learn and continue to grow for the future, and hopefully, give our older players some satisfactory performances to make this season at least somewhat memorable for them."