Hudson, Neidell adapt to the postponed fall season

WKU head volleyball coach Travis Hudson waves to a record-breaking crowd following the Lady Toppers’ NCAA Volleyball Tournament Second Round match against Louisville in Diddle Arena on Dec. 6, 2019. The Lady Toppers fell to the visiting Cardinals, 3-2.

Nick Kieser

Among fall sports on The Hill, the only program with a regular season is football, leaving uncertainty for sports like soccer and volleyball.

After the NCAA and its President Mark Emmert announced on Aug. 13 that fall sports competitions and championships were being moved to the spring, a shockwave was sent throughout the sports which fell victim to the ruling.

Lady Topper soccer and volleyball — which combined for a 42-9 record last season — will have to wait until the spring semester for any competition.

“There was a lot of apprehension from our kids,” volleyball head coach Travis Hudson said about the postponement of the fall season. “There was disappointment and relief in the room. It’s been very much everyone leaning on each other.”

The respective programs are looking for exhibition games in the meantime. Soccer head coach Jason Neidell, who is entering into year 20 of being at the helm of the program, is looking to play three to five scrimmages this fall.

“As far as the spring goes there is a lot of speculation as to what that might look like, but there’s nothing official quite yet,” Neidell said.

Hudson said that if his team doesn’t play in scrimmages this fall that his players will have gone a year without playing a volleyball match. The last game the volleyball team played was Dec. 6, 2019, against the University of Louisville, where it was eliminated in round two of the NCAA tournament.

Opting out has been one route for student athletes to venture down. The NCAA has a blanket waiver for students who choose to sit out a season. Doing so gives the athlete grace to still participate in the next season while not burning a year of eligibility.

There has yet to be a WKU athlete to opt out of participation from either the volleyball or soccer team.

Neidell said there are one or two soccer players who may be limited to playing in the upcoming spring season because of academic reasons.

Hudson said he has made it known that he would support players in any decision they make.

The respective programs have also adjusted to the guidelines in place on campus to resume team activities. Wearing a mask and social distancing was something both coaches vocalized to their teams upon arriving at WKU.

“Our kids have handled this seamlessly,” Hudson said of the volleyball program. “They’re doing the right things. They know that their actions impact those around them.”

However, the soccer program did shutdown practice for two weeks following a player testing positive for coronavirus on July 27. Neidell said as soon as he had an inkling that one of his athletes had COVID-19, practice was discontinued.

“All of these parents have entrusted me with the health and care of their daughters,” Neidell said. “That’s my primary responsibility is to make sure we are keeping these kids safe.”

Because of the shutdown, a daily questionnaire has been created for the soccer players to fill out. Neidell reported that he has been getting close to 100% participation and that it has been helpful in catching symptoms early on while assessing readiness for practices as well.

“Before they leave the room in the morning they are completing that survey for us,” Neidell said. “It’s optional, not mandatory for them, but we are getting close to 100% participation. And we think that has been helpful in catching things early but also getting ready for practices every day.”

Sports Editor Nick Kieser can be reached at nick.kieser036@topper. Follow Nick on Twitter at @ KieserNick.

Cassady Lamb contributed reporting to this story. She can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @lambp0p.