Women’s volleyball is traditionally a fall sport with competition done by mid-December. Spring is for training with a few matches for practice. Due to COVID-19, fall sports were pushed to the spring, so volleyball is now suiting up for action. Division I play began in early February, but St. Francis College in Brooklyn decided to wait for Northeast Conference play, so the Terriers are scheduled to open match play March 2 against Long Island University.

Amable Martinez, in his second year as head women’s volleyball coach at St. Francis, said communication was key in keeping his players motivated in anticipation of playing. Mental health was a priority.

“Obviously, it was very different,” said Martinez. “Not only in the volleyball aspect of it—because we had to go through obstacles to maintain on the court due to COVID testing and so forth—but also academically. They’re used to being with their peers. Now, everybody is taking their classes individually in their rooms.”

Once they got in the gym, they focused on little things. Keeping it positive, Martinez said the team got an extra two months of preparation for the season, which was especially beneficial for the freshmen and transfer students. The fall semester was outstanding academically with a team average GPA of 3.78.

“We have direct communication with our administrators and other coaches,” Martinez said. “We get to bounce back and forth ideas with each other.”

Most of the players on the volleyball team come from outside the New York/New Jersey area, but have embraced Brooklyn grit and toughness, Martinez noted. “We’ve got to do what we can, work with what we have and make the best out of it,” he said.

Last year, St. Francis introduced a men’s volleyball program. The assistant coaches from the women’s team coach the men’s program and Martinez gives input. The team is gearing up to start play in mid-March. He said it’s awesome to be part of reviving Division I men’s volleyball, giving praise to St. Francis athletic director Irma Garcia for being a forward thinker.

St. Francis’ family atmosphere and strong support system have been important this past year. He knows the players want to play and the sense of anticipation is real. Inner-squad matches kept them psyched and game ready. Coaches and players all wear masks in practice and will wear them in games.

“It’s a sport we all love,” Martinez said. “We’ve tried to make it as normal as possible for them. … The kids have been so mentally strong and have been able to maintain everything.”