Synchronized skating team anticipates return to competition
Following a first season at the helm that featured no live intercollegiate competitions, only virtual events and exhibitions, Liberty University second-year synchronized skating Head Coach Emily Hughes is looking forward to a 2021-22 schedule complete with sectional, regional, and potentially national championships.
"Last year was my first year in the head coaching role after serving under Tatiana (Payne) for the past four seasons," Hughes said. "It was really exciting to step into that type of leadership, and it was an interesting season to kind of start things off. Obviously, we were dealing with COVID so that changed things a little bit, but the girls were really great, and we adjusted really well under the new direction that we wanted to take the team in."
A large freshman class last fall had an opportunity to train together and begin to develop a program that the Lady Flames will showcase in competition this season.
"We had seven new girls so it kind of felt like a new team, kind of a fresh start for the program, which was really great," Hughes said, noting that the skaters did have the opportunity to stage two virtual competitions as well as performing during an intermission of a Division I men's hockey game and in the "Exhibition of Hope" at the LaHaye Ice Center, which helped motivate them throughout the season. "That (hockey game) was a great experience, being in front of a live audience, and also finishing off the season with the ‘Exhibition of Hope' performance, which was really fun for the girls. We were able to get that competition feel back … and that exhilaration of being in front of a live audience … to help prepare them for this next season, returning to in-person competition."
She said the team is more focused and determined than ever, with the thrill of hope on the ice and anticipation in the air for the upcoming school year.
"It feels like we have a lot of energy kind of built up from not being able to compete this past season, so we're really excited to get back on the ice in a couple weeks and just start preparing for that return to the normal season," Hughes said. "Last season, we took a step back and skated at open collegiate so our goal for this season is to get back to the collegiate division and hopefully return to nationals."