KEYSER - Things may not be normal in the world of COVID, but student-athletes and coaches alike, despite this year's many challenges, are still focused on honing their craft and being the best individually and as a team that they can be.

By Chapin Jewell
Tribune Correspondent
KEYSER - Things may not be normal in the world of COVID, but student-athletes and coaches alike, despite this year’s many challenges, are still focused on honing their craft and being the best individually and as a team that they can be.  
Keyser volleyball head coach Kara Breedlove, in fact, is convinced the 2020 season will be an important one for the Golden Tornado volleyball program.
“I really believe this is going to be a turning point season for Keyser volleyball,” Breedlove stated. “We’ve had many losing seasons in the past. I can’t remember the last time Keyser has had a winning volleyball record. Last year we were close, there were three games that went down to the last points in the fifth game. Had those three games went our way we would have been .500.”
“This year, we’re getting over that .500 mark and I’m shooting to win 75 percent of our games. If my expectations aren’t high every single day, then their expectations aren’t high either,” Breedlove explained.
To accomplish those winning goals, Breedlove will rely on three seniors and a junior with extensive varsity experience to lead the way. On top of those experienced returners, Breedlove is convinced her personal experience coaching the juniors when they were freshmen at the jayvee level will pay dividends as well.
“I have three seniors, Gini Breedlove, Racheal Rutherford and Rachael Brinkman. For two of the seniors, this is their third year of varsity, and the other senior this is her second year of varsity and she was a leader when she was a sophomore on jayvee. They will be filling my leadership roles along with Kaelyn Kesner, my setter, who has been on varsity all three years,” Breedlove stated.
According to Breedlove, “I have three seniors and eight juniors on varsity. The juniors that I’m working with this year, I was their jayvee coach when they were freshmen.  They know me, I know them. I know what their ability is and it helps because you know how to push them and you know when to back off.”
“One of the things is that all of these girls from freshmen to seniors have worked really hard all summer. Their attitudes are all focused on winning, on doing what they need to do individually and with their teammates to make the team get those wins,” Breedlove explained
One thing that’s different this year from years past is the absence of local Maryland schools in Allegany and Garrett counties, due to Maryland postponing fall sports. Gone are some of those familiar local teams. In their place some new faces like Tucker County, Pendleton County, and a few other private schools.
“We have our videos we can review from last year to really know the other teams on our schedule, well, what was our schedule. When you know what Fort Hill, Allegany and Mountain Ridge had last year and what they had coming back this year, it makes a world of a difference going into the season,” Breedlove stated.
According to Breedlove, “Now we are playing Tucker County, who I’ve never seen. We played Pendleton County two years ago, but a lot can happen in two years.”
The schedule is a bit different, so too is the planning, practicing and playing volleyball with COVID-19 restrictions, but all are doing their part. Wearing a mask, while necessary, certainly takes some getting use to. One overlooked aspect of mask wearing is the effect it has on communication.
“I have to continue to remind them that these masks have to stay on and cover their nose and their mouth, but we give them more water breaks because of it. Luckily last year we got the fans installed, because practice would be impossible without those fans. The fans have helped considerably,” Breedlove stated.
According to Breedlove, “It’s harder for the kids but I think they’re actually becoming more vocal because the masks are on. They know it’s going to be hard for them to hear each other so they are being much louder in calling balls and such.”
It’s been a challenging pre-season but the Black and Gold clad volleyball players at Keyser have met the challenges head-on and are working tirelessly day in and day out to accomplish their goals. The ambitions are big, so to is the effort. No doubt Coach Breedlove’s ambition to have 2020 serve as a turning point will come to fruition.