IHSA targeting April 8 for return of spring sports, but a lot of ifs remain

Wheaton North coach John Noe IV is optimistic that the 2020 boys volleyball season can be saved despite the ongoing spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Updated March 25, 2020

The Illinois boys’ volleyball season came to an abrupt halt after the last of the state’s public and private schools closed their doors for the foreseeable future due to the nationwide COVID-19 outbreak.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s latest executive order called for schools to remain shuttered until April 8, and the Illinois High School Association released a statement Tuesday indicating that April 8 is the target date for the spring sports season to resume.

However, the IHSA added that it is too early to say definitely that all activities will resume on that date.

“There are state governmental, educational and health bodies that will need to approve this action as we get closer to it,” the IHSA said. “It is important to remember this is an unprecedented situation and will remain fluid.”

Opinions of Illinois boys’ volleyball coaches vary as to when, or if, the season will resume, either by the target date of April 8 or sometime later.

Wheaton North coach John Noe IV is one of those who believes that the 2020 season can be saved.

“I am confident that adhering to the strict guidelines coming from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) early on will allow the IHSA spring sports schedule to be salvaged,” he said. “China was able to stop the exponential spread of COVID-19 and plateau their cases within 3-to-4 weeks.”

In the interim, while they cannot practice as a team, Noe is ensuring that his players are making the most of their time away from the gym.

“In addition to our school’s e-learning approach to the classroom, I am taking that same approach to Wheaton North’s boys’ volleyball program,” Noe said. “My staff and I are sending assignments in terms of articles to read, clips to watch and past film to analyze to all our athletes.”

Sandburg coach David Vales believes the season will be picked up at some point.

“Am I optimistic? Yes,” Vales said. “Am I convinced we will re-open right away? No.”

Vales has a somewhat selfish motivation behind his desire to resume the season as soon as possible. His son, David, is a senior outside hitter.

“This is a little more difficult for myself as a coach since I have a senior hoping to salvage part of the season he’s waited his life for,” he said. “I started at Sandburg in 2001, the year David was born. He’s been in the gym with me since then.

“Although he played just about every other sport growing up, he found his ‘calling’ in volleyball,” Vales added. “He’s one of the ‘lucky’ ones as Concordia University-Chicago awaits next fall. But for most of his friends, this is their last hurrah of organized sports.”

Like Vales, Lincoln-Way East coach Kris Fiore does not believe the target date is feasible.   

“I would be surprised if we are back to school within a month from now,” he said. “We have a higher probability of saving the school year and season if people take the threat seriously, and help stop the spread by staying inside or as isolated as possible.”

But when the season does resume, Fiore believes his players would not need much time to get ready.

“We are encouraging our kids to do as many workouts as they can within their own homes to stay in quality shape,” he said. “For our squad, I don’t think the extra time off playing volleyball is that bad of a thing for their bodies. All 16 played club volleyball all winter.”

Lincoln-Way Central coach Mary Brown believes there will be a season, but like Fiore and Vales, does not know when.

“I am very optimistic there will be a season,” she said. “I trust God will take care of us and this virus will get under control. I really have an awesome group of young men and am really hoping we get to play.”

Meanwhile, Fremd coach Curtis Pinley is taking a pragmatic approach to the effect the pandemic is having on the 2020 boys’ volleyball season.

“As we all realize, there are far bigger things in life beyond volleyball during this time,” he said. “As we navigate through, I am hoping that our athletes gain perspective and realize what is truly important, on a global stage.

“Volleyball will always be part of what they enjoy, but right now we need to be mindful of the bigger picture,” he said.

Note: Illprepvb.com will continue to publish team previews and other stories related to the 2020 boys’ volleyball season until a final determination is made by the IHSA.