For thankful players, shortened season better than none

After pandemic threatens to cancel season, Knights return to court with hopes of district title, playoff victory


Jolie Gabriel

The host Lockhart Lions headed into their home varsity match on Friday night looking to complete a sweep of Coach Amy Brodbeck’s Knights, but instead it was the visitors who did the varsity sweeping, taking the final match of the evening, 3-0, with set scores of 25-10, 25-18 and 25-13. Photo by Jolie Gabriel.

Lily Prather, staff reporter

Imagine walking onto a court, a crowd full of people all shouting and cheering for the same reason. Now imagine that crowd disappears, so does the shouting, so does the spirit.

Athletes all over the world are missing the experience of a supportive home crowd because of COVID. Thankfully the McCallum volleyball teams are getting their season despite COVID-19. The girls worked towards this year, and getting that taken away would be heartbreaking.

The McCallum volleyball team is affected by COVID just like everyone else.

I think we are just trying to adapt to the situation at hand while also keeping in touch with our team traditions and dynamic.”

— senior outside hitter Sophia Olivares

“Dynamically I think they understand what’s going on,” varsity Coach Brodbeck said. “They know that it’s all about safety. So they’ve adjusted and done really well with that.”

Tryouts were in late August with mandatory temperature and health checks before playing, as well as wearing masks and social distancing off court. COVID also restricted the teams from having their usual preseason and freshman camps.

“That was probably the most disappointing thing for these seniors, especially the cutting down of our season,” Coach Brodbeck said.“ We had an overnight tournament at Bryan-College Station, and it was more of a bonding thing. We always try to do something where we bond as a varsity team. They definitely wanted to be a part of that and to play different people.”

During preseason you play other teams besides the schools in the area, it’s usually in the summer and a great way for the girl to build team dynamics.

“I miss those games the most,” senior Sophia Oliveras said. “They gave us a lot of playing time and practice for the teams in season. It also allowed for the team to bond before the season started so we could play stronger. But I feel like we are still bonding pretty well regardless.”

Senior Sophia Olivares elevates for a spike attempt during the Knight’s straight-set victory over district rival Travis last Tuesday in the large gym. Olivares had three kills, two solo blocks and a dig in the match.  Junior outside hitter Grace Werkenthin led the team in kills with eight, and senior Bridget Russo, the libero for Tuesday’s game, was tops in digs with nine. Senior setter Caroline Cox dished out a team-high 15 assists, and Cox and Hall each served three aces while Jaz Mahr, Sophia Henderson and Russo each served two. Photo by Jolie Gabriel.

For the Class of 21, it is their last year at Mac and their last year as a team. Oliveras is a varsity outside hitter, she’s played volleyball for six years and says this is her last, except she might play some beach volleyball on her own time. Olivares is similar to the other seniors in that this is their last chance to play the sport they love before heading out to college or wherever they end up.

“I think we are just trying to adapt to the situation at hand while also keeping in touch with our team traditions and dynamic,” Oliveras said. “I feel like the season is very similar to my past ones, but we are just trying to make sure everyone is safe.”

Tryouts were a little tougher with the mask, when I tried out for the team I was super nervous. It ended up being not as bad as I thought.”

— freshman middle hitter Cate Thoden

While Oliveras is among the elders on the varsity squad, freshman middle hitter Cate Thoden is one of the rookies. This is her third year playing but her first at McCallum. Adjusting to a new team, new school and new coaches is hard enough without only seeing half of peoples faces.

“Tryouts were a little tougher with the mask, when I tried out for the team I was super nervous,” Thoden said. “ It ended up being not as bad as I thought and was super fun.”

Thoden watched some of the McCallum varsity games in middle school and said that’s what inspired her to try out; she loved how competitive it all was. When watching a varsity game communication is something that stands out. The girls are always calling plays and balls.

“We all get along super well,” Thoden siad. “It makes it a little easier to play on the court together, instead of not really talking to each other. I already knew a couple of people from Lamar on the team, but everyone was super nice and super easy to get along with even though we have known each other for barely three weeks.”

Thoden has confidence in her team.

“I hope we all get stronger at playing volleyball and to be able to really know the court and which ball is yours to get.”

Our secondary teams and so forth are just as strong as our first team and I’m so excited that they’re on this varsity level to get that experience.”

— varsity coach Amy Brodbeck

Although the season is different for everyone, the opportunity to play at all is a huge accomplishment for the teams.

“I know that the seniors are excited about it,” Coach Brodbeck said. “They know they want to be successful, and just being able to come to school and see each other, the social aspect is there too. You don’t really get it so much in their Zoom classes and their online classes. The fact that they could come together and be able to talk with one another and continue to improve their volleyball skills is like a blessing in disguise because they were ready to get out and do something.”

The girls are improving their skills with each game. The main goal of the varsity team is to win district. They haven’t gotten past the first round of playoffs in 11 years. Last year, the team was so close. This year, the coaches and girls are ready to give it their all.

“I feel like our varsity team not only is having returning players, but we also have a phenomenal bench,” Brodbeck said. “Our secondary teams and so forth are just as strong as our first team and I’m so excited that they’re on this varsity level to get that experience. Hopefully they’ll get some more playing time as the year goes on. I really am impressed with this team as a whole.”


Middle hitter Cate Thoden looks to set a shot over the net during the freshman A team’s match at Anderson on Sept. 26. The freshman A team lost in two tight sets, 25-18, 25-21. Win or lose, Thoden says the team has excellent chemistry and that she looks forward to continuing to improve communication on the court and improve together as a team. Photo by Jolie Gabriel.