The Arizona softball, soccer and volleyball teams had their first days of practice/workouts on Monday as they begin preparing for their seasons, which begin within a month.
The only problem? They don’t even have their game schedules yet.
All three programs are waiting for the Pac-12 to finalize its plans and protocols for their respective sports before releasing their schedules.
As of now, sources say Arizona soccer’s schedule will consist of 16 games—four non-conference games plus 12 league games. Normally, Pac-12 teams play seven to nine non-conference games and 11 league games. The Pac-12 is planning to have rival schools play each other twice this season, hence the 12th conference game.
However, everything is subject to change during the coronavirus pandemic.
UA softball coach Mike Candrea said in November that his team has a full 50-plus game schedule ready to go for the spring, but acknowledged potential issues with the early-season tournaments that call for several teams to play in a central location at once.
One of the most reputable events that UA was set to participate in—the Mary Nutter Classic—has already been cancelled. The Wildcats are (were?) also slated to play in a tournament in Irvine, California against Oklahoma, Mississippi State, Cal State Northridge and LMU.
The Big Ten has even gone so far to prohibit its softball teams from playing non-conference games, but there is no indication that the Pac-12 plans to do the same.
As for volleyball, UA coach Dave Rubio was once in favor of the Pac-12 shifting to a double round robin (which would mean 22 conference games instead of 20) but that was after the Pac-12 initially ruled that the sport would have a conference-only schedule in the fall.
That still seems like a decent proposal, though, since the SEC and Big 12 are slated to only play conference games in the spring.
Arizona volleyball is under the biggest time crunch right now, with the season officially set to begin on Jan. 22. The college softball and soccer seasons both start in early February.
While UA volleyball and softball have started practicing, Arizona soccer is doing a week of strength and conditioning and small-group workouts before beginning contact practices next week.
If there is one advantage softball and volleyball have over soccer, it’s that they are non-contact sports. That means game cancellations should be less frequent because they are considered lower risk sports for COVID-19 transmission.
The college volleyball and soccer seasons are traditionally held in the fall, but they were postponed to the spring due to the pandemic. Ironically, COVID-19 case numbers have risen since then and the vaccine rollout is only just beginning.