During the Lady Kings’ practice on Friday, Ketchikan High School head coach Kevin Johnson gathered his team together to let them know the news.
It wasn’t the worst possible news — Kayhi’s volleyball season still is underway — but hearing that their first games of the season against Grace Christian School were canceled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic was still a let down.
Even if the writing was already on the wall.
“It’s heavy,” Johnson said. “Meaning that, watching these kids work their tail ends off, and giving us everything that they’ve got and practicing hard — being challenged. And then to get that kind of news, it’s disheartening.”
True words for a group of girls that have done their due diligence, following mitigation plan procedures to keep their season alive.
The Lady Kings have done their job staying safe — using hand sanitizer, continuing to wipe down volleyballs in between plays, checking temperatures at the door and answering health questionaires.
And the First City has done its job keeping the number of cases of COVID-19 within the green risk level, as determined by the Ketchikan Emergency Operations Center.
But Grace Christian would have to travel through Anchorage, and Anchorage’s COVID-19 risk level is higher.
“Their school said they can’t travel through Anchorage,” Johnson said. “Even though they’re (outside) of Anchorage, they have to travel through Anchorage to get to Ketchikan.”
So instead, the Lady Kings started playing scrimmages, beginning with an intersquad bout on Saturday at Clarke Cochrane Gymnasium.
Later this week, there will be an alumni game.
“(The girls are) working hard,” Johnson said. “... And as coaches and as parents, and as a group, we want to show them off to the public, and we just didn’t get that opportunity. But if this is the best that we can do right now, we’re going to do the best we can do.”
About 60 to 70 parents and family members watched the Lady Kings’ scrimmage on Saturday. Ketchikan kept the audience to just immediate family to limit the number of people in the gymnasium at one time.
But everyone did their due diligence. Upon entering the gymnasium, spectators completed a questionaire for COVID-19 symptoms, registered their names on a sign-in sheet, masked themselves, and headed to their seats in the upper level.
“The spectators did a great job following the mitigation plan,” Johnson said. “... I think that’s awesome. It helps us out. Because right now, we’re the first program at the school that’s put this many people in one place. So I think the eyes are on us — not in a bad way — but I think the eyes are on us to see if this can really happen and really work.
“So we’re doing everything we can as a coaching staff and as a school to make sure that we follow the mitigation plan to a T.”
The Lady Kings kept the energy up throughout the afternoon, as teammates bounced back and forth between sides. Just getting playing time was the focus.
“At the end of the day, we’re about (the) kids,” Johnson said. “This is about giving kids a chance to be on the floor; this is about giving kids a chance to hopefully come watch the girls play. Hang out a little bit. We have to figure out how to live with what we’re going through.
“All we can do is cross our fingers, and once we get school started (this week), that we continue to keep our cases down. And we just get a chance, maybe.”
A chance at getting out on the court, and playing a game.
“Any chance they get on the floor, it’s a win,” Johnson said. “Because we can be shut down at any moment.”
Juneau’s up in the air
The Lady Kings are scheduled to play Jueneau-Douglas High School on Sept. 25. Currently, the capital city is in an orange risk level.
“If that case count doesn’t drop by the Sept. 21, then we won’t be going to Juneau,” Johnson said. “And they can’t come here because of how it all works.”
Johnson was hopeful that Craig High School might be playing volleyball by then, and a chance to play the Lady Panthers was on the table.
“Hopefully Craig will give us a chance to play them,” he said. “Because we’re both at the same risk level, which is green. And they’re good. (They’re a) really good team.”