Girls take sports into own hands

Volleyball players create league to deal with cancellation of fall sports


Jordan Wattles

During a league game versus Northwest High School girls on Oct. 9, senior Madeline Gates gives a double thumbs up to her teammate senior Kaitlyn Schwenn to reassure her that she doesn’t need to worry. “I was just really excited to play and that we had some fan support,” Gates said.

Sophie Bacon, Reporter

Since Omaha Public Schools canceled its fall sports season with the slim possibility of bringing them back in the spring, the volleyball team received an opportunity to play one last season together as a team.

The Volleyball Academy, an Omaha based business that provides volleyball programs for all ages, reached out and provided the option for a league for all the schools left without a season because of COVID-19.

“When I heard that fall sports would be cancelled at OPS, but all other school districts were playing, I knew I had to do something to make sure our kids could play,” parent Lisa Carlson said. “And selfishly as a parent, I wanted to watch my daughter play,” “After reaching out to various clubs in Omaha, we had two clubs that were willing to work with us because they were sympathetic to the challenges we were facing.”

When Carlson spoke with Deb Grafentin at The Volleyball Academy (TVA), she let her know that as a graduate of Northwest High School, she wanted to help the OPS athletes. Together they came up with a plan and she reached out to all head coaches to get a parent contact at each high school.

“Through the work and dedication of parents throughout this city, we are giving our athletes an opportunity to continue playing throughout the fall which makes everyone involved happy,” Carlson said.

The volleyball team jumped at the idea and messaged everyone on the team to see who would be interested in playing. Players had the option of practicing with TVA at their facility for some extra skills training or just practicing with the entire team on a sand court.

“I like practicing with the team, and this is such a fun way to still enjoy the game,” sophomore Jessica Conway said. “But I dislike how we have to practice on sand courts. It’s pretty different from the real thing. We kind of have to modify the way we play on sand and then change it for when we play on the actual courts.”

The pandemic caused most athletes to scramble to find previous year’s game tapes to post to college recruits. This year hit hard for many seniors possibly looking for scholarships for volleyball, so this opportunity was a “no brainer” for senior Jordan Wattles.

“Playing in this league will help me get more film for coaches to further evaluate my ability to play in college,” Wattles said. “Plus, it gets me more time in the court, otherwise the last game I played was in March so that’s 9 months ago, so it keeps me in the feeling of playing games.”

To be a part of the league, players had to pay a fee of $50 and sign COVID-19 release flyers. The team is comprised of 8 students and they meet every Friday night with the season ending Oct. 23.