Start of the semester inconveniences riddle fall varsity athletes

Emily Solomon, Sports Editor

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While many varsity athletes know the struggle of having significantly less time for homework and other extracurriculars during their seasons than other students, they also understand the struggle of having a sports season that requires them to come back to campus early.

For fall season athletes, summer break is cut short in order to begin preseason training for a grueling upcoming schedule that begins almost as immediately as the semester does. 

Members of the fall sports teams weren’t surprised that they were required to be back on campus before the initial start of the academic year, but a few were surprised by how much effort it was to move into their dorms. The Wire spoke with members of the women’s soccer and volleyball teams to hear their stories.

Sophomore soccer player Elly Wolfe stayed in Walla Walla this summer, working on campus and even living on campus in Jewett. Due to scramblers needing a place to stay before their outdoor trips, Wolfe was forced to move out of her Jewett room prior to the soccer team’s preseason trip to England. With nowhere to store her belongings and a flight across the world looming near, Wolfe’s last option was to corral her friends in town to help her store her belongings in many random places on and off campus. 

On top of having trouble moving into on-campus spaces, first-year fall sport varsity athletes haven’t been able to participate in as many team activities as the returning members of their teams. The women’s soccer team travelled to England this August to play against professional soccer teams, but they were unable to bring their entire team. 

“Since the first-years on their team were technically not Whitman students yet in August, they weren’t allowed to join the team in England due to NCAA rules,” Wolfe said. “It would’ve been nice to have them, but I understand the rule.”

The women’s soccer team has 12 first-year players, so having those additional bodies on the field would have helped the squad as they travelled to Europe. 

The volleyball team had similar issues pertaining to NCAA rules, making it challenging for teams with few returning players. As a group with only six active returning players and no possibility of playing with first-years, the team had to cancel their preseason trip to San Antonio, Texas. 

Junior volleyball player Elyse Benavides, an El Paso native, was especially disappointed that her team wasn’t able to travel back to her home state during the preseason.

“It was a real bummer having to cancel our Texas trip because a lot of families, including mine, had already made arrangements to attend,” Benavides said. “Also, not having those additional four games in the preseason set us behind most teams in our conference who were able to play more preseason matches.”

However, sophomore soccer player Mehrija Selava has a lot of positive thoughts about her team leading into next season, despite some challenges they have faced early on.

“I think with so many first-years and returners next year we will have a lot to build off of from this year,” Selava said. “This year has been a year to build our identity that we haven’t had in awhile and to find trust in one another, and focus on what we want our goals to be as a team.”

Looking forward, these athletes hope to alleviate many of the unnecessary stresses that come with the start of the school year. As the NCAA rules would be difficult to revise to allow first-years to travel prior to the semester’s start, these athletes hope that athletics and Residence Life will be able to work to build a stronger relationship to make everyone’s life a bit easier in the future.

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