Eastern Wyoming College received notification from the National Junior College Athletic Association this week that close-contact fall sports will be moved to the spring semester. The release specifically identifies football, men's and women's soccer, and court volleyball. The NJCAA also moved the beginning of winter sports to January with championship seasons moved from March to April. These sports include men's and women's basketball, wrestling, and swimming and diving. Spring sports competition will remain intact with minor adjustments to dates.
The Lancer Volleyball team was originally scheduled to have student-athletes on campus on August 1st but now athletes will come to campus at the start of the fall semester. With the changes, they will now begin official season practices on January 11, and the first match will be January 29. The national tournament will be April 15-17.
"I fully support this move, I think it is the most sensible option and gives us a realistic chance to train and compete and enjoy our season in a safe manner," said Dante Geoffrey, volleyball coach. "Personally, I was concerned that any attempt to proceed with a fall season would have been foolish and resulted in abrupt cancellations like we had in March with college and high school basketball and many other spring sports. At the very least this buys us time and gives us a chance to slow the spread and hopefully get a handle on this thing in the fall and winter months."
Geoffrey continued, "Now that we know when we are competing we can better prepare for our season and for our student-athletes. For our international students, it gives us a clear timeline and now we know who can and can't get here, and when, and we can better set them up to succeed academically. It's just nice to have this clarity."
As far as volleyball goes, this is something that looks drastic on paper but I think it's something we can adapt to pretty easily. For the players, it will be similar to having a fall high school season and then transitioning into spring's club season. As a coach, I'm looking forward to the opportunity to have this team train together for a couple of months before we actually hit the court in an official match against another team. In total, we might play a few fewer games than in season's past, but I think we're all grateful that we have a season to look forward to no matter when it is."
The NJCAA changes will have very small impacts on the Lancer golf program. According to Coach Zach Smith, the fall season is basically considered a scrimmage season by the NJCAA. "We've had to move our Fall season back a couple of weeks which resulted in changing a couple of tournament dates but fortunately we didn't have to cancel them. NJCAA, Division 1 golf is played in during both the fall and spring seasons, but the spring season ultimately determines national ranking, season honors, and region/district/national championships. Since we battle inclement weather in the Midwest, Region IX golf decided several years ago to use both the fall and spring seasons to determine individual and team champions in the case that many of our tournaments are canceled. Which, unfortunately, happens more than any of us would like. Ultimately the coaches and players are just happy that we are able to have our fall season at this point and we are ready to get things going."
The move to January as the start for men's and women's basketball will allow time to focus on academics and preparation for the season.
Coach Tim Moser, men's basketball shared the following on the impact to his program. "During these difficult times, I'm so proud that EWC has seen the positive impact a diverse set of student-athletes brings to the college and to the community. The new schedule provides us a great opportunity to really dig in academically, improve as individuals, and grow as a team."
EWC Athletic Director and women's basketball coach Tom Andersen added, "The delaying of the Women's and Men's basketball season to the Spring semester will create some adjustments that will be made both by Region 9 and EWC. As the Region in conjunction with the sports chairs and coaches work toward a schedule that will accommodate both basketball and Volleyball, as gyms will be shared for both practice and competition, as well as transportation. The Fall semester gives us the opportunity for practice in a 60-day window. All schools in the Region will be making the same adjustments so everyone will be dealing with the same challenges. We are committed to getting our student athletes on campus this fall and working on preparations for our spring competition."
The Lancer Rodeo team is governed by the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) so they follow different guidelines. "The NIRA has left the decision to compete and the schedule up to each region," said Coach Jake Clark. "The Central Rocky Mountain Region is planning on some fall competitions. The schedule right now is tentative and pending and new restrictions."
Once schedules are finalized, they will be available on the EWC website.