With few chances to compete, the Hillsdale College Chargers have spent much of their fall preparing for delayed seasons. The swimming and volleyball teams, however, both had a break from preparation with a chance to compete on Saturday, Nov. 8 against outside teams. But only a day before their respective events, they were told to stay home.
The swimmers, who have been racing in virtual meets this fall, finally had an opportunity to swim against the University of Findlay and Lewis University in Findlay, Ohio. Two weeks before the meet, Findlay had to cancel due to COVID-19 cases on its team. The Chargers scheduled a virtual meet in their home pool instead for that same Saturday.
But on Friday, Nov. 7, Hillsdale’s team reported six positive cases, thus having to cancel its own virtual meet.
“We weren’t surprised about the cancellation because we had had people out the whole week before,” senior Katherine Heeres said. “But we had been trying to take measures in the pool so we wouldn’t all have to be quarantined.”
She said the Chargers would swim from opposite ends of the lanes and wear masks on the pool deck, but even that wasn’t enough to prevent the whole team from going into quarantine.
They can resume practice on Monday, Nov. 16 and are still planning to compete at Calvin College for its Winter Invite in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The meet has been shortened to a two-day meet instead of three, beginning on Nov. 20.
Heeres said that with the meet approaching in a week, the team is trying to stay active in the best way possible.
“Our coach sent out a combination of stations and body weight circuits with things we can use from around the house,” Heeres said. “They are encouraging us to get outside and walk, bike, or run and do anything we can without endangering other people.”
The volleyball team missed out on an opportunity to scrimmage Gannon University from Erie, Pennsylvania. The Chargers planned to host the event, but after not getting their test results soon enough, they had to cancel.
“Our local labs are so overwhelmed right now with tests,” Director of Sports Medicine Tyler Cortright said. “It’s taking two to three days longer than they used to take just because there’s so many cases of COVID right now in Michigan.”
Despite being unable to play on Saturday, head volleyball coach Chris Gravel said it was a good learning opportunity.
“Both teams were really disappointed. We learned something from it though,” Gravel said. “From the time we took the test on Wednesday, it looked like we were going to get it back by Friday, but we learned we can’t get too close.”
Coaches, trainers, and conference offices have to decide the best time to test to avoid delayed results. Hillsdale’s head athletic trainer Andrew Bacon said the G‑MAC is working on new regulations and protocols to prevent future situations like this.
“Right now we’re following the NCAA recommendations as far as we can,” Bacon said. “We’re waiting for the conference to give us further guidance.”
The Chargers decided to still have their own tournament on the sand courts in Hayden Park.
“It was a super nice day on Saturday, so instead of being depressed that we weren’t able to play, we had a tournament,” Gravel said. “We made the best of it and were pretty competitive. There was a mistake made by me though.”
Gravel said the team normally has a pre-game meal, and although it was an intersquad tournament, he still wanted to get the team together. By Saturday night, however, the Chargers learned two of their teammates tested positive.
One of the girls had been showing symptoms prior to the test, according to Gravel, so she wasn’t with the team on Saturday. Another girl, who was asymptomatic and around the team on Saturday, was the second positive case. She still has no symptoms.
“We had been really good about spreading out and being outside and doing all the things necessary to keep us from all going into quarantine,” Gravel said. “But I still wanted to have the pregame meal, what was I thinking?”
The quarantined Chargers are still waiting for their release dates. Gravel said he expects it to before Nov. 22, just in time for their Blue-White scrimmage.
Senior setter Lindsey Mertz said she is in quarantine at home with three other teammates.
“Thankfully we’ve been able to do things together. We went to the hill by the tennis courts and did some sprints, and the other day we did a bleacher workout and some body weight stuff,” she said. “It’s really awesome to still utilize the outdoors.”
Mertz and Gravel both said the Chargers were having their best season yet in terms of the team’s overall health.
“I was enjoying my healthiest team in my entire coaching career,” Gravel said. “Everyone’s on a Vitamin D and Zinc regiment. Usually half my team is sick by this time of the season. But we’ll recover from this just like anything else.”
Mertz credits her teammates for doing a better job of managing their stress and sleep schedules this semester. They’ve also maintained great mental toughness, which she said will be key in their return.
“We’ve done all the skills and executed them once before,” she said. “We’ve run so many of the same plays over and over so I think it’s just about mentally staying with it. Coach encouraged us to watch film to stay sharp mentally.”