Liberty women’s volleyball not giving up despite cancelled season

Leadership and team unity have been key themes for the LU volleyball team amidst a disorienting year that has repeatedly shaken its players with factors totally outside their control. 

Although the postponement of the fall season was a setback for the team, they now look forward to growing together as a unit and preparing for whatever lies ahead. Head Coach Trevor Johnson reflected on how easy it is to be upset when something like this occurs, but said that it is very important to refuse to be discouraged.

“It’s very easy to just give up and say, ‘I’m going to throw in the towel,” Johnson said. “But it is what it is. Our team theme this year was ‘Burn the ships.’ We’re in this together, we’ve arrived at land, we’re going to burn the ships, and we’re not going to take the easy way out. Regardless of how hard this is going to be, we are in this together.”

Student athletes throughout the ASUN conference were disappointed that the season was postponed and Liberty’s volleyball team was no different. However, Johnson’s athletes decided to focus on the bright side of the situation. 

Freshman Trinity Watts said that while she was disappointed that her first collegiate season did not go as planned, she has grown a new appreciation for the delay of the season.

“It’s a blessing in disguise,” Watts said. “It gets me prepared for spring. I get used to the team. I’m not being thrown in. We’re getting to go over offense and defense and have a slower pace to it. Overall, and I speak for the all the freshmen, we are glad that (the season was moved back to) the spring because it gives us time to adjust with the team and build that chemistry.”

The cancellation also disappointed senior Kainah Williams. Williams did not participate last season because of an ACL injury, so the postponement means an even longer unexpected break from volleyball. Instead of mourning what is out of her control, she chooses to be hopeful for the future.

“Moving past the disappointment, we’re just focusing on the future and what we can do in this offseason to get better,” Williams said. 

Williams also spoke about the importance of leadership on the team during the pandemic and said that the leadership is what she loves most about Liberty’s team. 

“It’s a key time to lean on our leaders, and they did a great job with that,” Williams said.

Watts also applauded the Liberty staff.

Volleyball takes on High Point University on Sunday December 8, 2019. (Photo by KJ Jugar)

“What Coach Johnson has done, it’s really good,” Watts said. “I feel like he’s building a program that’s going to do well and I’m excited to see how it goes and what it looks like.”

The team staff also works tirelessly to incorporate leadership in everything it does. Johnson said that the team hosted weekly meetings with the team leaders during the pandemic to prioritize leadership.

“It’s a testament to them being willing to change,” Johnson said. “They didn’t have to change that much, because they were already doing a lot of that stuff. It’s just because they want to get better, not just better as volleyball players but also better as human beings.”

The younger players on the team are seeing the dedication of their older teammates, which pushes them to improve as well.

“My teammates are amazing,” Watts said. “They’ve helped me on and off the court. The leadership on this team is unmatched with any other team I’ve been on.”

Beyond on-court competition, however, the challenges associated with the pandemic have given players the chance to connect in unprecedented ways.  

“I love our culture and our team because it’s like a family,” Williams said. “The girls are super awesome. Of course, I love volleyball. I love competing. But also, I love being in the building with the people in our program, on our team, on our staff.”

The team hopes to continue to grow together as a unit. In a season in which nothing is certain, the team is prepared to face any challenges that come their way. 

“Every great sports team, every great business corporation; there’s always been some kind of struggle or some kind of uncertainty and downtime,” Johnson said. “But from that, greatness happens. That’s the truth that we’re trying to hold on to here. That God has a plan for us, and we have to go through these ‘dark times’ and we know that through this we’re going to have some perseverance and hopefully grow hungrier. We’re going to look back at 2020 and know that if we can get through this, we can get through anything.”

Christian Shields is a Sports Reporter.

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