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Players, coaches excited to get back to competitive play

A graphic of Western’s volleyball team backed up by the Western logo. Women’s volleyball will return to games in April. // Courtesy of WWU athletics

By Nathan Schumock

The Great Northwest Athletic Conference, the athletic conference in which Western Washington University competes, announced an official return to play for spring and previously-postponed fall and winter sports.

On Feb. 18, every school in the GNAC except Simon Fraser University — which is still restricted by the Canadian border closures — opted into a spring season for softball and baseball, according to the GNAC’s press release. The decision was approved by the GNAC CEO Board, which is made up of all the university presidents in the conference. The meeting also confirmed a schedule for rowing, track and field and golf spring championships, according to the press release.

“There has been a lot of work to get to this point, and I appreciate campus administration seeing the great value in our student-athletes returning safely to competition,” said Steve Card, Western’s director of athletics, in a press release. “We will continue our due-diligence to ensure the well-being of all our student-athletes, coaches, staff, campus personnel and the Bellingham community.”

Jeff Evans, Western Athletics’ director of communications, said Western is now allowed to schedule games across the board for all teams that decide to play.

The first home games will be on Saturday, Feb. 27, as Western softball hosts a doubleheader against Northwest University and Western women’s basketball hosts Saint Martin’s University, Evans said.

He also said no fans will be allowed at any games throughout the rest of the year — the rule applies to every GNAC school.

Travel will be limited to minimize the risk of COVID-19 spread, but teams are now cleared to travel, Evans said. The men and women’s golf teams will be doing the most traveling, as the men’s team will travel to Arizona and Colorado, while the women’s team will also travel to California.

All visiting teams must follow specific COVID-19 protocols, including required testing for all players 72 hours before the game and showing a negative test to be eligible to play, Evans said.

“It’s just been a crazy year, but I’m excited to get back out there,” said Emma Duff, a senior guard for the women’s basketball team.

Women’s basketball is in a different situation than the spring sports — they only get to play a 6-game schedule. However, Duff said this has not disappointed the team.

“I’m just really grateful for what we can get right now, everyone’s obviously making sacrifices,” Duff said.

Duff said it was nice to feel a sense of normalcy in her life through the game preparation the team has been doing, such as watching film and running scout teams.

Volleyball is another sport that got pushed back from the fall, Evans said.

Diane Flick-Williams, Western’s head volleyball coach, said her squad has kept a positive attitude through all the ups and downs and is looking forward to competitive play. 

Flick-Williams said her team has kept in shape throughout the offseason, and they are going to try to stay in the moment and keep hoping for good news.

“I’m pretty impressed with our team's focus on the things they can control outside of the gym,” Flick-Williams said. “I think they’ve come back in as good a shape as they possibly could.”

The women’s basketball team has a lot of returning players and they are excited to get back out on the court, Duff said. 10 of the current 14 players on the roster were also with the team during the 2019-20 season.

“Once you’re out there, the competitive juices will be flowing and you’re just going to be happy to be playing basketball again,” Duff said.

All of Western's team schedules can be found on the Western athletics webpage, and every home event will be available via webcast on YouTube.


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