ELFRIDA — While some schools in Cochise County are not doing any conditioning of any kind with their athletic programs, Valley Union’s volleyball program is having open gym four days a week providing players the opportunity to fine tune their skills in anticipation of a 2020 volleyball season.

Jenn Casady, the head volleyball coach at Valley Union High School, admits it’s been challenging trying to find ways to condition her athletes and stay positive amid the COVID-19 restrictions.

Because of the restrictions and the number of girls she has attending open gym, Casady holds two open gym sessions four days a week. The first runs from 4 to 5 p.m. and is primarily for the newer players who will more than likely play junior varsity. And the second is from 5 to 6 p.m. session is for the advanced players who are expected to be on the varsity squad when the season begins.

Per the AIA scattered schedule for fall sports, the first day official day of practice is Monday. Casady said they will begin Monday so they can start competitions in accordance with the AIA’s outline.

“We all have the hopes and anticipate a regular season within what the AIA has for the parameters set for us,” Casady said. “Hopefully it will get back to normal at some point. We’ll take any season, any amount of games is better than zero.”

The coach states she has been informed that if things continue the way they are, the first games could begin the week of Sept. 22 and the state championships would still be held the first week of November.

“I’ve got a good group of girls here that are talented athletes,” she said. “I think we’re all anxious to see what we can accomplish on the court this season.”

Having two assistant coaches this year is allowing Casady to do more one on one instruction with the younger players which is a blessing in some ways.

“The one on one time for these girls is crucial in their growth as an athlete in this sport,” she said. “We turn it into a positive and do the best we can with it.”

Although the format isn’t what the players are used to, they are happy to be back with their teammates.

“What we’re experiencing now is definitely different,” Breanna Enriquez, a junior co-captain on the team said. “It’s still fun, however, because we get to gather as a team but it is different because we’re not fully together all the time for practice because we are forced to separate due to COVID. It’s nice to come here and get out of the house.”

Valley Union has been holding online classes for its students since Aug. 3. Enriquez states she is in front of her computer attending class every morning from 8 a.m. to roughly 3:45 p.m. that afternoon. In addition she is also taking some college courses which are also online. Then she heads to the open gym four days a week.

“We’re all anxious to start practicing,” Enriquez said. “We all want a season. I’m a junior this year and definitely want to have a season. I know the seniors feel the same way. It sucks not knowing if we’re going to have a season or not.”

As a team captain Enriquez tries to remind the other players that they are still a team and are there for each other as well as they need to continue to be there for each other no matter what happens.

“We just need to keep going and try to be positive about everything,” she said. “It’s hard, frustrating at times but there’s nothing we can do. We just need to continue to get ready so if we can play, we’re ready.”

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