It has been a busy summer for the athletics programs at the University of South Carolina Sumter. While the coronavirus pandemic has made things a little more difficult, the school is still gearing up …
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It has been a busy summer for the athletics programs at the University of South Carolina Sumter. While the coronavirus pandemic has made things a little more difficult, the school is still gearing up for the return of women’s soccer this fall along with its men’s soccer program On Wednesday, the school announced its intention to add volleyball to the mix in the 2021-22 school year.
Women’s soccer is still coming in 2020 despite the pandemic, but the season may not look how it was originally planned. Wake Technical College, Southwest Virginia and Richard Bland are three Region X schools in the National Junior College Athletic Association that have elected to forego athletics this year. That’s led to a slight schedule shift, but the Fire Ants are still actively recruiting and will have a roster in place for the upcoming season.
“We still have plans to start women’s soccer and their first season of competition this fall,” said USC Sumter athletic director Adrienne Cataldo. “Our coaches are still actively recruiting, so that plan is still in place. The number of games -- I believe we have 18 scheduled for women right now -- the same number of games are still on the schedule.
“We have had some tweaks here and there, we’ve had some Region X schools who have decided to forego athletics for this academic year, but we are still following the path of playing with some extra requirements and necessary precautions.”
What makes things difficult for USC Sumter right now, especially with a new program this fall, is that everything is in flux. Summer workouts won’t begin until at the earliest August 1, and recruiting is still hampered by the pandemic. However, the Fire Ants are doing what they can to move forward.
“All this is subject to change. Everything from the schedule to the precautions to the recommendations to the requirements,” said Cataldo. “Every week we have multiple meetings about this virus, about school and the first priority of making sure our students and our coaches are safe and protected.”
The women’s soccer program currently has seven players with signed letters of intent as well as a number of commitments and are adding to that list. There were some bans on recruitment for this season, but those bans have been lifted as the team fills out its roster for 2020.
“The bans have been lifted. Initially we were pushed off with recruiting by the NJCAA, similar to what the NCAA has done with their different divisions,” said Cataldo. “A lot of recruiting has been virtual, watching film, speaking with them via Skype, doing virtual tours of the campus, so things have definitely been different but our coaches have adapted well.”
Cataldo would love to say without a shadow of a doubt that this season is going to go as planned at the moment, but that’s a hard statement to make. USC Sumter can have every plan in place, but not everything is going to go according to plan.
“Plans never go as planned, but the plan is to go the course,” said Cataldo. “We have the numbers we need for women’s soccer. We’ll have the team that we need in August. Right now the plan is to play, but who is to say that doesn’t change in the future.”
The men’s team is set to return this fall as well. It will be the program’s fourth year since its restart.
With all of the uncertainty, it seems odd for USC Sumter to announce its intention to add volleyball to the mix, but not for Cataldo. Sumter has a growing and vibrant volleyball community that has been calling out for a volleyball program. Cataldo was hoping that volleyball could have potentially started this fall, but that wasn’t in the cards due to the pandemic, but she is excited to see the program start in 2021.
“To start this program, it’s kind of like a beacon. It makes the community happy,” said Cataldo. “We’ve had so many people reach out to us about adding volleyball. Sumter is a great volleyball community and to start something like this would just be something to keep everyone’s hope up for the future. We’re working on getting the position posted for the head coach, then after that we’ll start recruiting for the following year.”
But volleyball isn’t the only head coaching position that USC Sumter is trying to fill during the pandemic. The Fire Ants also have to replace men’s and women’s tennis coach Alex Poda, who’s last day was June 15.
“I can not tell you the number of emails I’ve gotten from people wanting to be the (volleyball) coach. We’ve received several email resumes and interest in the position, which made me happy,” said Cataldo. “I’m hoping to hire (a volleyball coach) in August, but the pandemic has slowed everything down, so the hiring process, which is already a process, is slowed down even further.
“Our first priority is bringing in a tennis coach. Our tennis coach, his last day was June 15 and he’s done tremendous things for our program and so we’re working on finding someone to take his place. We’ll be pulling those applications, I believe on Monday, and doing interviews very soon after.
While the pandemic makes hiring coaches a little more difficult, Cataldo is optimistic that USC Sumter will have two new qualified coaches very soon.
“The great thing is that there are coaches out there who want to coach,” said Cataldo. “You would think that the hardest part is finding someone during the pandemic, a qualified person who would want the position and we are just getting a huge number of applicants for both positions. It keeps me hopeful for the future.”
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