By Mike Zummo
There’s no timeline for competitive volleyball to be played in New York state, but that hasn’t stopped the Pine Bush Volleyball Club from ramping up with the dawn of the new year.
The club started regular practices at Gear Up in Wallkill on Mondays and Wednesdays on Jan. 4, and has several out-of-state tournaments scheduled through March.
But, while they’re within state borders, practice consists mostly of skill sets, club director Melyssa Klempner-Amelio said.
Klempner-Amelio is also the Pine Bush High School volleyball coach.
In a normal year, the club season would begin in December or January, after the high school season had run its course. This year, there was no high school season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, causing the club to start up sooner than normal.
“They need to have some kind of outlet to keep up their skills,” Klempner-Amelio.
Practice is also different than in the past as the club conducts temperature checks, the athletes must wear masks, the volleyballs are disinfected, and players are in their own pods.
It also gets the girls together, which hasn’t happened in months.
“We do see a lot of these kids haven’t been in school at all,” Klempner-Amelio said. “It’s a good outlet for them as they haven’t seen their peers since March.”
The club does more than just get the players on the court to practice their volleyball skills. It also plays an active role in getting players recruited to play in college. This aspect is most important to the older athletes, especially current juniors who lost out on a key recruiting season when the season was canceled.
When postponing football and volleyball in the fall, the New York State Public High School Association postponed volleyball – defined as a high-risk sport by the state Dept. of Health – to March. However, there is no timeline for high-risk sports to gain approval.
The club has about five girls actively being recruited to play collegiately, including Pine Bush players Kiara Vasquez and Alandra Hasbrouck.
Recruitment coordinator Alyssa Hasbrouck has been key creating skills videos and reaching out to college coaches via social media.
“She’s been very successful with that,” Klempner-Amelio said.
Plus, the club’s reputation and rapport the coaches have with colleges has been helpful in allowing the club to reach out to coaches.
“We’ve had our contacts because of the club being around for so long,” Klempner-Amelio said. “They are emailing and reaching out and speaking to players they’re interested in over Zoom. They’ll ask for film, which we have. They’ll see practice film and skill sets. That has made it much easier than we thought it would be.”
And even though they’ve got activity going, practice may run stale after a while, so they are scheduled to attend competitions in Pennsylvania. They were also fortunate to get in most of their tournaments last season before the pandemic shut everything down.
It isn’t just the players getting antsy. Coaches are, too.
“I can’t wait to coach because it’s been so long,” Klempner-Amelio said. “The girls miss the competition, and so I.”
They’re hoping they get to play in the spring. The NYSPHSAA has postponed all high-risk sports until Gov. Andrew Cuomo gives the OK for high-risk sports to be played.
“They’re eager; they want to play,” Klempner-Amelio said. “They want to compete against other teams. That’s part of the camaraderie. It’s a team sport. That camaraderie is there, and now they want to show it by playing other teams.”