Getting in the game: Local alumni start to see playing time as several college sports resume seasons
Transitioning from high school to college can be tough. Add in the rigors of competing for a Division I athletic program and it gets even more difficult. Pile on a pandemic and ever-evolving COVID safety guidelines and you have a rather non-traditional experience for first year college athletes.
Despite the many obstacles, local alumni Faith Menary (Nevada Union) and Tre Maronic (Bear River) are taking it all in stride.
“I think we’re looking at what will be the new normal,” said Menary, a former star for the NU volleyball program now in her freshman season at Louisiana Tech University. “I think it’s becoming more normal, which is pretty sad, but we’re adjusting and getting used to it.”
Adjusting, adapting, being accountable to teammates and simply taking it day-by-day are all keys to navigating these strange times, said Maronic.
“It’s kind of a crazy season with COVID and everything,” said Maronic, a former standout on the gridiron at Bear River who now plays for the Western Illinois University football program. “I’m just taking it one game at a time, one week at a time and seeing what happens.”
While the early morning workouts, team meetings, daily practices and film study have always been part of the deal for collegiate student-athletes, Menary and Maronic are experiencing it for the first time and doing so with the added weight and uncertainty that comes with playing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I did not think it was going to be like this at all,” Maronic said. “It’s unexpected, but everybody’s got to go through it.
“We got some strict orders and the guys on the team know that we need to stay at home and not be going out. We don’t want to forfeit or miss a game because we got guys out with COVID. We know what we need to do and have been getting it done.”
Menary said part of her team’s safety protocols include morning temperature checks as well as completing a “symptoms” form. Once that is completed she is given a wristband for the day that signifies she’s cleared to participate.
Another oddity for the two freshmen is both are playing out of their sport’s traditional season. Both football and women’s volleyball are usually fall sports.
Louisiana Tech, which competes in Conference USA, played just two matches last October before halting the season. The Bulldogs started back up in mid-January and have played 13 contests so far, with seven more left on the schedule.
Menary, who led California in kills and was named the league MVP her senior season at NU, has found playing time in her first season with the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. The talented outside hitter has played in 11 matches, notched 33 kills and 23 digs so far.
Maronic and the Western Illinois football team just kicked off its season on Saturday. The Missouri Valley Football Conference postponed its 2020 campaign last August.
The delayed start may have played into Maronic’s favor as he suffered a shoulder injury last summer that required surgery and wasn’t cleared to play until January.
Maronic, who wears No. 4 and plays running back, saw some game action on special teams in the Leathernecks’ opening day loss to Missouri State, 30-24, on Saturday. Western Illinois has seven games left on its schedule, all of which are broadcast by ESPN+.
WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS
For both Menary and Maronic, the transition has been made easier by quickly bonding with their new teammates.
“Our team is one that likes to have a lot of fun,” Menary said. “We have dance parties in the locker room, and we get after it in the weight (room) and cheer each other on. I think our energy is one of the known qualities of our team that stands out. All of us want us as a team to get better, and that’s the atmosphere we’ve created this season. That’s been really helpful and very exciting.”
Maronic added, “Being at a smaller Division I school like us everybody knows everybody on both sides of the ball. This team is tightly bonded and that will help us succeed this year.”
While the path to play has been a long and winding one, it has all been well worth it, Maronic said.
“It’s something that’s definitely different,” he said. “I was on the field the other day and I said, ‘It feels like lacrosse season,’ because that’s what I’m used to. But, anytime is football time, so I’m good with it.”
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email email@example.com.
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