Bulkeley HS Volleyball Team-members Discuss Sports in a Pandemic

Bulkeley HS Volleyball Team-members Discuss Sports in a Pandemic

Bulkeley High School volleyball team members were featured in this story about Connecticut high school athletes by Shawn McFarland and Lori Riley published in the Hartford Courant on November 15, 2020; excerpted below:

High school athletes across Connecticut just experienced a challenging and often uncertain fall sports season unlike any other. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the season began on Oct. 1 after a start-and-stop preseason. A shortened, regionalized regular-season schedule was followed with an augmented postseason in which the state’s top teams settled for segmented conference championships as opposed to state titles.

Still, it was something. For many players and coaches, the uncertainty felt throughout the summer led them to believe they wouldn’t play at all. And once the season did begin, some didn’t think they’d make it to October before getting shut down, let alone November.

“It felt like a family, instead of just a team”

The Bulkeley volleyball season started, for senior captains Jada Copeland and Amilya Williams [pictured above] and their teammates, outside on the soccer field because their gym was being renovated and they had no place to play.

It ended with them in quarantine, with their last two games canceled, after a teammate tested positive for COVID-19.

In between, they played 12 matches. They lost all but one, 3-0. Even though they faced adversity, or perhaps because of it, they formed a strong bond with their teammates.

“It felt like a family, instead of just a team,” Copeland said. “After practices, games, we’d have a group chat, we’d all text, we’d send pictures, we’d encourage others. It wasn’t just like, ‘OK, see you guys tomorrow when we have practice.’ Everybody was so encouraging.

“There were a lot of new girls. There were a lot of freshmen playing varsity by the end of the season and just watching them improve, it made the whole season worth it. I wouldn’t change anything about it.”

They started out in the field, with no net, just volleyballs. They conditioned and did skill work. When they finally got a net, sometimes the wind would knock it over.

“It was challenging, but I wouldn’t say it was impossible,” Copeland said.

Then athletic director Diane Callis found a place for them to play, M.D. Fox Middle School, so they would bus there after school. And their schedule was changed; normally, Bulkeley plays the other Hartford schools but they were in different regions so they had to play a more difficult schedule.

“We want to win but that’s never been crazy important to me,” Williams said. “I was happy to be there. Especially this year. We were practicing in the grass. I just felt like it probably wasn’t going to happen. Our conference changed, we were playing better teams. We were putting up a fight. Some of the games, it wasn’t like 25-0, it was like 25-18, so I was pretty proud of us.”

Senior Night was different, too. Because of school restrictions, there were no spectators at their match at SMSA Nov. 5. The JV players walked the seniors in. Their parents and families watched on video.

That was their last game. They found out Monday the rest of their season was canceled.

“Even though we didn’t get to play our last two games, I was so grateful we actually had a season,” Copeland said.

Follow this link to read the entire story in the Hartford Courant.