Preparing during a pandemic: Cal beach volleyball begins preseason quarantine, training

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On Dec. 26, the Cal beach volleyball team reported back to Berkeley to begin its quarantine, preparing itself for preseason workouts and training. To make up for lost time, the team has begun conditioning and practice, gearing up for the upcoming season. But as it began its journey to return, the team was not surprised at the regulations and differences that this season would yield.

“Everyone had the mentality that they knew it would be different, especially in the beginning, so everyone has been such troopers,” said Cal beach volleyball assistant coach Rachel Nieto, who holds the position after serving as a volunteer assistant coach last season.

Quarantine served as a rite of passage for the team to begin practicing. Coach Nieto and her players are following precautions in order to maintain a safe environment: Each player must test negative for COVID-19 twice during the team’s quarantine, the team must receive daily health screenings and masks must be worn throughout the entirety of practices.

During the second half of their quarantine, the blue and gold were able to get on the court and engage in low-intensity training.

“Low intensity was not getting too close and wearing masks, treading lightly. We did this until we got the ‘OK’ to start high-intensity practices,” Nieto said.

Eventually, the Bears did get the “OK” — the team shifted to high-intensity training Jan. 5, at the culmination of its quarantine.

Because Cal did not get a fall semester to condition, the coaches were nervous to see where the team stood in terms of physical abilities and endurance. Within the first few days back on the court, during the low-intensity practice stage, the coaches came up with ways to allow players to get their “sand legs” into shape, including sand shuffling.

But the coaching staff was pleased to find that many of the players had done a solid job of keeping in shape. Through the encouragement of coaches and the drive of the players, the team trained during the fall to be prepared for its return to the Clark Kerr beach volleyball courts.

“We are not as behind as we thought,” Nieto said.

As the practice routine continues to become more strenuous and demanding, the team is gearing up for a full season. However, a season calendar is yet to be released due to difficulty in scheduling.

“Our season motto is, ‘Don’t plan, but prepare,’” Nieto said.

The team is hopeful for a full season and is training to defend the No. 9 ranking it earned in March 2020 — a rank that represents the best in program history. Whether or not the Bears get the chance to improve on that mark remains to be seen.

Alisa Steel covers beach volleyball. Contact her at [email protected].