One of the biggest changes to the Big 12 volleyball season due to COVID-19 is that teams are playing two-game weekend sets against one another, instead of the usual weekday/weekend schedule.
Through two weekends of the 2020 season, the West Virginia Mountaineers fins themselves with just a 1-3, but head coach Reed Sunahara said Wednesday afternoon that the team is getting used to this schedule. Sunahara said the change that had the biggest detrimental effect on teams is the lack of a preseason.
“The competition part is what we missed the most,” Sunahara said. “Normally we play three teams per weekend for four weekends so then we have 12 matches that we can get some good numbers and a little bigger sample size than just from practice. Playing against another team really helps, that’s what we missed.”
The Mountaineers will be in Lawrence, Kansas this weekend to play two games against the No. 10 Kansas Jayhawks (1-3). This will be the team’s second time on the road this season, another change that Sunahara said has taken some getting used to.
“Normally we don’t spend four days in one spot so that was really weird in itself,” he said. “Normally if we go to, say Kansas, we get there Tuesday and then either leave Wednesday night or early Thursday morning but now we’re going there [Thursday] and we don’t leave until Sunday.”
Areas this season will also be either completely without or at least with very limited spectators.
“I think you still have the home-court advantage, but there’s going to be a lot more parity because of [no fans],” Sunahrar said. “You don’t have that crowd sound as loud or the fans on top of you screaming and heckling and all the stuff.”
Even with all the changes for this season, Sunahara said the Big 12 is as strong as ever. However, Sunahara did say that the changes this season could lead to some unexpected results. He does not expect any one team to be completely dominant all season.
“Every weekend is important. We’re in the Big 12, every win we can get helps,” Sunahara said. “I just think there’s going to be a lot more close games and maybe upsets. It’s happening already, there’s too many good teams in the league not to have splits over the weekend more so than not.”
WVU will play the Jayhawks Friday night at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 6 p.m. in Lawrence. Both games are scheduled to be broadcast on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.