Disney World or bust … USA Volleyball cancellation leaves clubs with only one choice (updated 5/31)

Marist’s Ewalina Gacek and her 1st Alliance 17 Black teammates are on a short list of teams tentatively scheduled to participate in the AAU Girls Junior National Championships beginning July 14 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Dave Ruggles)

USA Volleyball has made the decision easy.

“I’m going to Disney World.”

At least until further notice.

Late last week, USA Volleyball announced the cancellation of the USA Volleyball Indoor National Championships for the 2020 season, including the Girls Junior National Championship in Dallas and the Girls 18s Junior National Championship and Boys Junior National Championship in Reno.

Citing safety, USA Volleyball said that upon further evaluation of the current and projected status of the COVID-19 virus in each of its respective cities, the organization could not be assured of each venues’ ability to host safe and restriction-free environments.

Due to the cancellation of numerous qualifiers earlier in the spring, only a handful of girls’ teams had earned bids to the 2020 USAV national championships, including 20 from the Great Lakes Region. Nine qualifiers were cancelled, including the Windy City April 10-12.

Meanwhile, the 47th AAU Junior National Volleyball Championships originally set for June 16-28 in Orlando, Florida, have been pushed back to July 14. However, the AAU has announced that no spectators will be allowed and temperature checks will be conducted to help protect all participants and officials.

The AAU also plans to take other precautions, such as spacing the courts further apart to increase walkways, a limitation on the number of vendors, a ban on handshakes, and the sanitation of balls between matches and courts between sessions.

Sports Performance, Club Fusion, VC United, Adversity, UNO and other clubs have already indicated that they would not participate in AAUs this summer.

“I don’t have any interest at this moment in attending (AAUs) in July,” said Eric Schulze, executive director and club owner at VC United Volleyball Club in Loves Park near Rockford, whose club sent 11 teams to Orlando in 2019.

“If recruiting reopens in July, I would consider the opportunity for our recruitable age groups,” he added. “But at this point, I simply cannot justify the financial component of traveling to Florida to play in a ‘national championship’ after not practicing for three months, especially given that it will be a small number of clubs/teams represented.

“Under those circumstances, it makes sense to stay local and play other clubs in the area,” Schulze said.

But other Illinois clubs are on the short list of teams that have indicated they may participate in the Florida event.  

Among those clubs on the AAU tentative team list are 1st Alliance (18 teams), Belusa, Illinois Performance and Top Flight.

Scott Harris of Sky High Volleyball Club, who had initially indicated he would send two teams to the USA Volleyball Girls Junior National Championship, is now considering send them to Orlando.

A mitigating factor, however, may be the absence of college coaches in Orlando. On May 28, the NCAA moved the dead period back to July 31 due to the coronavirus. The dead period means no in-person recruiting is allowed and any unofficial and official visits are prohibited. Coaches are not permitted to have face-to-face contact with recruits or scout them in person.

But on the boys’ side, the point is moot. Not only did the boys lose their spring high school season, but their club nationals have been nixed as well. Thirty-eight teams from Illinois in the 15-18 age groups had qualified to compete in Reno.

However, the cancellation of the USA Volleyball Boys Junior National Championship does take a difficult choice out of clubs’ hands.

“It is a tough call to make,” said Sports Performance boys director Troy Gilb before the announcement was made. “The boys have worked very hard this season and I don’t want to disappoint them by not going.

“At the same time, I don’t want to put a player, a coach or a family member at risk should we decide to attend,” he added.

A risk the state of Florida, Disney World, the Orange County Convention Center, and, for the present, approximately 86 clubs from throughout the county are apparently willing to take.

“We care deeply about our employees, clients and guests and we will always do what is in the best interest of our community,” said Orange County Convention Center Executive Director Mark Tester in a statement released May 15 when the event was postponed until July 14.

“We remain committed to the economic resiliency of our clients and appreciate the AAU’s continued commitment and support of the center.”

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