LARAMIE — The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced the postponement of two fall sports at the University of Wyoming.
UW’s women’s soccer and volleyball teams won’t start their respective seasons until September, and even that could change amid the uncertainty the pandemic has created in college sports. Soccer is tentatively slated to open the season Sept. 3 at Big-12 member Kansas State while the first competition the volleyball team has scheduled is a Sept. 18 tournament with Northern Colorado and Kansas State in Greeley, Colorado.
Soccer and volleyball — the school’s first sponsored sports to return to competition at the start of each athletic season — normally begin their respective seasons in August. Soccer was originally scheduled to play Kansas State in an exhibition on Aug. 9, but UW coach Pete Cuadrado told the Star-Tribune the contest will now be a regular-season match and that the Cowgirls won’t play any exhibitions.
“It’s been very tough to try to find games,” Cuadrado said.
The volleyball team was supposed to start its season by playing host to Iowa State, Wichita State and Creighton in a tournament during the last weekend in August, but that won’t be happening. The Big East Conference (Creighton) has decided to play conference-only schedules this fall while the American Athletic Conference (Wichita State) has postponed the start of Olympic fall sports until at least Sept. 1.
Iowa State is a member of the Big 12, which has yet to make any decisions regarding fall sports, but UW coach Chad Callihan said the Cyclones’ volleyball program has been told to keep its opponents more regional.
That’s assuming there’s a season at all as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to spike nationwide. Three Power Five conferences, the Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC, have also decided to play conference-only schedules this fall while another, the Atlantic Coast Conference, is largely doing the same in football and leaving it up to their member schools to schedule non-conference games in other sports at their discretion.
A number of other leagues at various levels have either postponed fall sports or canceled them, so the front end isn’t the only part of UW’s soccer and volleyball schedules that have been affected.
UW has lost nine matches from its original soccer schedule. Cuadrado said a handful of games had been added as replacements, but all but one of those matches have also been canceled, leaving soccer with 14 matches on its schedule as of Wednesday. Volleyball has gone from 30 scheduled matches to 18, which Callihan said includes the loss of 10 non-conference tilts.Callihan said volleyball could still add non-conference matches in early September. Cuadrado said he anticipates soccer getting up to 16 or 17 matches. But that will depend on which leagues are left to play a non-conference schedule, including the Mountain West, which has yet to announce a decision as to what fall sports will look like for its member institutions.
“My gut feeling is I think we’re going to play. I just think it’s going to look very, very different,” Cuadrado said. “I think there will be games canceled, I think there will be games added, and it’s going to be a little bit interesting because it could be on the fly. We’re all going to be flying by the seat of our pants a little bit on this.”
Next week could provide more clarity with the NCAA’s board of governors scheduled to meet Tuesday. That’s when the board could decide to postpone or cancel championships in multiple fall sports, including soccer and volleyball. The association doesn’t have the authority, though, to cancel the College Football Playoff, which is run by the Football Bowl Subdivision conferences.
But even if the NCAA decides to cancel championships in other fall sports, regular-season games could still be played at each school’s discretion.
“I think we’re just kind of waiting to see what the NCAA says here on Aug. 4 before we begin to venture down that road,” Callihan said of potentially adding more games to the schedule. “I think the expectation is there may be a delay, so there’s not really a point in adding a lot of matches before we know that.”
Of course, the sport that everyone is anticipating hearing about the most is football, which, for some FBS teams, is scheduled to start at the end of August. UW’s non-conference game against Utah has already been scrapped because of the Pac-12’s scheduling restrictions, but the Cowboys are still scheduled to open the season Sept. 5 against Weber State at War Memorial Stadium.