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Early COVID-19 pause didn’t phase Mills Godwin girls volleyball team

Updated: Apr. 7, 2021 at 11:21 PM EDT
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HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - Chris Wakefield had just finished day one of tryouts for his Mills Godwin girls volleyball team. Then came the news.

“Our second day, we were notified that one of our players had tested positive for COVID,” Wakefield, the head girls varsity coach, recalled. “The AD told us we had to leave the gym and from there it was just a process of talking to the health department and the county and them letting us know that we would be quarantined for 14 days.”

That certainly isn’t the ideal way to begin a season, especially when a full roster had not even been chosen.

“It was challenging. We had to make a couple of adjustments, especially to our practice schedule. We still hadn’t gotten through tryouts and even selected a team,” noted Wakefield. “The first couple days, first couple practice for us were definitely a little bit of rust-shaking practices.”

Upon return, the Eagles had just six practice sessions to select a squad and prepare for their first match. Wakefield said they increased practice time to help the players catch up.

“We all just took it as a warning that we needed to keep doing what we’re doing, stay safe,” said junior outside hitter Kaitlyn McNeel. “Knock on wood, we’re hoping that it only happened at the beginning of the season, rather than the end.”

Despite the hiccup to begin the campaign, Mills Godwin hasn’t skipped a beat. The Eagles are 9-0 entering Thursday’s final regular season match with Glen Allen and they’ve only dropped one set all season long. Not bad, considering how things started.

“A lot of it has to do with the leadership of this team,” Wakefield pointed out. “I’m fortunate to have some good returners back from last year’s team, a handful of them were starters. They remember what it’s like to be young and new to the varsity program.”

“We were able to bring that culture, even though we weren’t able to establish it at the beginning of this season, we were looking at the culture of last year and kind of implemented it back into the program” McNeel added.

An undefeated regular season would be nice, but it’s not the ultimate goal for Godwin. The Eagles have put up perfect schedules before the playoffs before, but are aiming much higher.

“Every year we step into this gym, we talk about the goal, which is to win a state championship,” noted the head coach. “Our region is one of the toughest around in the state.”

“We have a lot of goals put in place and we’re hoping to achieve every single one of them,” McNeel said. “Going undefeated during the regular season is awesome, but we’ve done that the past few years and it hasn’t paid off, so honestly, we’re just still grinding and taking what comes.”

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