by Josh Decker
The Great Midwest Athletic Conference (G-MAC) released the schedules for three fall sports originally slated to play this semester. Men’s soccer, women’s soccer, and volleyball were all pushed to the spring as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cedarville men’s soccer player Stephen Bailey noted the importance of the schedule release.
“I think having dates set for the start of the spring season gives us a more concrete target to aim for and extra motivation to continue working hard to get better in training,” he said.The men’s soccer team will play in nine conference games and begin play on the road at Walsh on March 13th. The Yellow Jackets’ home opener is a week later on March 20th when the team welcomes Ohio Dominican to campus.
The spring season is not without its challenges though. There is a possibility that some games, or even the full season, could be cancelled due to potential COVID-19 issues. In addition, there is the fact that the team must stay in shape and continue training through the fall and winter in preparation for the season.
Junior defender Jonny Stephens acknowledged the task ahead of the team.
“Usually we get Christmas break to recuperate from the fall season, but now we will have to use that break to mentally and physically prepare for the season,” explained Stephens.
Despite the postponed regular season, there is a sense of hope among the squad.
“Having dates set for when we will be able to compete again and show everyone the quality team that we have this year is something that I think excites all of us,” remarked Bailey.
Head coach Brett Faro echoed this sentiment saying, “There has been so much uncertainty for so long, it feels great to have something more concrete to be working towards.”
After securing an appearance in the NCAA tournament last year, the team is looking to pick up where they left off and get even better this year, with the ultimate goal being to win the G-MAC conference title this year.
“Our approach continues to stay the same as it has been all fall, and that is to continue working to be the best team we can be regardless of how many games we are able to play,” said Faro.The Lady Jackets soccer team will also open on March 13th at Walsh, who are the defending G-MAC champions, before continuing on the road against Ohio Valley. The team’s home opener, which also coincides with the men’s soccer team, is March 20th against Ohio Dominican.
Members of the 2020-2021 team were quick to express their enthusiasm about the schedule release.
Star junior forward Olivia Hoffman said, “I was really excited when the spring schedule was released because it provided something tangible to look forward to and for our team to work toward as we finish out this unique fall season.”
Sophomore Mary Kate Wyer echoed her teammate. “I’m just excited that as of right now, we have the opportunity to play in the spring.”
The release of the spring schedule has certainly sparked new motivation within the team as the players continue training during this fall season and into the winter break. Hoffman noted that the team has had a new drive since the schedule was announced.
“Team motivation and morale has increased since the release of the schedule because everyone is feeling the anticipation of the coming competition that we will hopefully get to have in the spring,” she stated.
Senior Mackenzie Northcutt, who will be looking to finish out her successful playing career at Cedarville this spring, was also quick to point out the effect on team morale during fall training.
“It has been evident on the field that we are driven to prepare now so we will perform in those games later,” she remarked.
Despite the uncertainty hovering over the season due to COVID-19, members of the team are grateful to God for every day they get the opportunity to play, as well as for the lessons they have learned throughout this unprecedented time.
“Through COVID-19, I have been learning to put more trust in God’s plan for me. God has been teaching me to be patient and I am recognizing that He is in control,” Northcutt stated. “The fall season did not go as we expected it to, but God still provided a competition season for us in the spring. I hope and pray we can glorify Him well through that,” said Northcutt.
Cedarville’s volleyball team also saw the release of their spring schedule, with play beginning in January. The Lady Jackets will host Walsh in the season opener.There will be plenty on the line too, as the G-MAC conference also announced it will have a single round robin among its programs, which will be followed by an eight-team championship tournament in March following the conclusion of the regular season.
Sophomore Mallory Delamarter expressed her eagerness for the new season.
“I was so excited when they released the spring schedule, she said. “Playing in our scrimmage last Friday night reminded me how much I missed playing in real games.”
As the Lady Jackets look forward to their opening match on January 19, Delamarter has had a period of reflection on the current circumstances.
“COVID-19 has taught me so much, but the biggest thing it has taught me is to never take anything for granted,” said Delamarter. “Returning to Cedarville, I am determined to be intentional with everything I do and everyone I encounter.”
Head coach Greg Smith is also looking forward to returning to game action, and recognizes how his team can use their sport to spread the Gospel with opponents.
“That aspect is such an important part of our program and why we use volleyball as a platform to compete and share the Gospel,” explained Smith.
The NCAA also recently announced that all Division II winter sport student-athletes who compete during the 2020-2021 academic year will now receive an additional season of competition through a waiver option approved this week. The winter sport athletes include men’s and women’s basketball, as well as volleyball. This same flexibility had already been announced for fall sport athletes such as men’s and women’s soccer, but it now includes relief for winter sport athletes too.
As the Yellow Jackets’ athletic teams continue to prepare for the upcoming spring season, there is a renewed hope to be able to play games again amidst COVID-19. Throughout it all, the athletes are focused on performing at the highest level possible while glorifying God in all that they do in their respective sports.
Josh Decker is a junior Sport Business Management major, and a sports reporter for Cedars. He loves playing sports with friends, and spends much of his free time as a student assistant for the Cedarville men’s basketball team.