KEARNEY — University of Nebraska at Kearney has one of the best volleyball teams based on talent in Division II.
After losing just one match last season, which occurred in the national championship game against undefeated Cal State San Bernardino, the Lopers expected to return to college volleyball’s biggest stage this fall.
But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lopers won’t have that opportunity.
On Wednesday afternoon, NCAA Division II canceled its seven fall championships, including volleyball, for due to the operational, logistical and financial challenges presented by the pandemic. Fall championships also won’t be moved to the spring, which was previously discussed.
Despite the announcement, it doesn’t mean fall sports are canceled. On Thursday, the athletic directors across the MIAA will hold a conference call to discuss the latest developments on fall sports, which are scheduled to begin practicing Aug. 31.
“It is our intention as of right now to still move forward and play fall sports,” UNK Athletic Director Marc Bauer said. “We want to have fall sports. We really do. Although we might not have an NCAA championship, we still have the potential to have a conference championship.
“For some of our young men and women, this could potentially be the last year they get an opportunity to compete in intercollegiate athletics. We would like to have that opportunity there for them. We have to be able to meet the guidelines of the resocialization guidelines from the NCAA. If we can do that and are confident we can do that, it is something we would like to do.”
Besides volleyball, UNK sponsors football, women’s soccer, women’s golf, women’s tennis, and men’s and women’s cross country in the fall. Volleyball, football, women’s soccer and cross country are fall sports that won’t have a championship this year.
Women’s golf and women’s tennis are split between the fall and spring seasons with their championships occurring in the spring. Those championships are on as scheduled.
On July 22, the Division II Administrative Committee approved waivers to allow Division II student-athletes to retain a season of eligibility if their team completes 50% or less of the sport’s maximum contests or dates of competition for the 2020-21 academic year.
There are some UNK student-athletes who have mixed feelings about competing this fall if an NCAA championship isn’t on the line, Bauer said. But he’s hopeful that the situation with the virus improves and that the fall athletic season will occur in some capacity.
“We have to be patient,” Bauer said. “We have to be understanding. We have to be mindful of the current situation. We have to be flexible and just with the recommendations that are coming forward.
“I want our fans to know that we are working hard towards having sports this fall semester. It might not be at the same level we have seen in previous years, but we also understand that our student-athletes have put a lot of time and energy into what their goals are. But at the same token, we are trying to take the necessary steps to protect the people that come on our campus. We are going to do this right, and I think that is really important.”
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