Some 15 months since the last time a California Community College women's volleyball match was played, six colleges have joined together and applied COVID-19 health and safety protocols for the student-athletes, coaches, staff and officials to produce a unique return to action in 2021.
Bakersfield, Antelope Valley, and Cuesta, all members of the SoCal Western State Conference, College of the Sequoias and Taft, from the NorCal Central Valley Conference, and Cerro Coso, from SoCal's Inland Valley Empire Conference, will play a 10-match, non-conference schedule each where the six teams play each other twice. The schedule begins with a match on Friday, March 5 as Bakersfield will host Sequoias. All teams will face each other back-to-back, one home and one on the road, to cut down the need for extra COVID-19 testing. The six colleges will make up an unusual Central Cali Bubble.
Bakersfield head coach Carl Ferreira discussed the excitement to not only a return to a sports competition environment but an indoor one at that.
"The pandemic has obviously created unprecedented situations for all of us and returning to play brings incredible relief, joy, and normalcy," Ferreira said. He cited the joint efforts of the six colleges' athletic directors and how they were instrumental in driving the idea of playing what amounts to a delayed 2020 season. But he said the endeavor took a great deal of cooperation by many individuals.
"On behalf of the coaches and players, I truly want to acknowledge the presidents, administrative staffs, athletic directors, athletic training staffs, medical staffs, and everyone that has worked tirelessly to give our student-athletes an opportunity to play. It is hard to fully understand and express all the sacrifice and commitment that has gone into this, and with the warmest heart we'd like to say, a big thank you for all the work they've done! Our student-athletes have effortlessly abided by every protocol that has been put in place, and they are extremely grateful for the opportunity to return to doing what they love to do. My hope is that we can play with COVID-19 protocols and do things the right way, and be an example to the other institutions colleges for what is possible."
Antelope Valley and host Cerro Coso played a scrimmage match on February 26 to little fanfare (no fans will be allowed to attend the Central Cali Bubble events) but the significance after the shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic that began in March, 2020 was a signal that a return to sports normalcy at the CCC level is closer than many expected.
Ferreira talked about how his team has prepared for the shortened season.
"The student-athletes at Bakersfield College have been buzzing with enthusiasm and gratitude while being adaptable as they've returned to the gym," Ferreira said. "It is so positive for their mental health to come to campus and be with their teammates exploring the unknown possibilities for what the team can accomplish. Our players have been extremely impressive how they've handled this entire situation with patience, flexibility, and maturity. It is an honor to be coaching these magnificent and talented young ladies."
Statistics and records will count for historical purposes although no conference titles or CCCAA state championships will be competed for the 2020-2021 school sports year.
While the season begins this week, it's a brief one as it will conclude the first week of April.
Release by Robert Lewis, CCCWVCA SID