Recruiting during the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t been an obstacle for the East Central College volleyball Falcons.
However, getting to play might be a bigger issue.
Lisa Mathes-Peters’ team returns six sophomores for the upcoming season. Additionally, the Falcons have eight players currently signed with at least one more additional possible.
However, the upcoming season won’t take place until the spring of 2021.
Acting Monday, the NJCAA Board of Regents voted to move all fall championship seasons in contact sports to the spring. That includes court volleyball.
That means the start of practices has been pushed back. Tentatively, East Central plans to start practices following the first week of classes Aug. 30 and have a two-month fall training session.
“We are working on our protocols like temperature checks and symptom check lists right now,” Mathes-Peters said. “We will follow all guidelines that need to be done to make sure our student-athletes and others are safe.”
The training will include COVID-19 education, team meetings and concussion testing. East Central Athletic Director Jay Mehrhoff said there’s still a chance fall training could be pushed back as well.
Practices for the spring season tentatively are slated to open July 11 with first matches planned for Jan. 29. The NJCAA Division II Region 16 Tournament is currently set for March 26-27, 2021.
The team went 11-17 in the 2019 season.
Returning this fall as sophomores are:
• Grace Struttmann, an outside-rightside hitter from St. Francis Borgia Regional;
• Allison Tonioli, an outside hitter from Warrenton;
• Macy Morehead, an outside-middle hitter from Saxony Lutheran;
• Kilisitina Lutui, a middle-rightside hitter from Riverton, Utah;
• Aurora Pututau, a setter-rightside hitter from Hunter, West Valley City, Utah; and
• Maykayla Bevfoden, an outside hitter from Union.
Tonioli and Struttmann led the team in kills last year with 224 and 211, respectively.
Pututau is the top returner in both digs (226) and assists (348).
Struttmann was named to the NJCAA Division II Region 16 first team while Lutui was selected to the all-region second team.
• Olivia Spanley, a 5-11 middle-outside hitter from Saxony Lutheran;
• Marrantha Hilliman, a 5-7 setter from Fair Grove;
• Leah Folse, a 5-6 libero-defensive specialist from West Orange High School, Winter Garden, Fla.;
• Leinata Leahke, a 5-11 outside-rightside hitter from West High School, Salt Lake City, Utah;
• Kendra Walla, a 6-0 middle hitter from Waterloo, Ill.;
• Carla Gazani, a 5-4 libero-defensive specialist from Granger High School, West Valley City, Utah;
• CeCe Shelton, a 5-11 middle-outside hitter from Francis Howell Central; and
• Trinity Clark, a 5-6 libero-defensive specialist from Mountain View Liberty.
Mathes-Peters said there is another player who has given a verbal commitment, but signed paperwork had not arrived as of earlier this week.
It’s possible there could be a spot for another player, but only if it is the right fit.
“We do not have any tryouts set and we may add another player if it is a good fit,” Mathes-Peters said. “Right now, it depends on if they can get here due to travel.”