BLOOMFIELD, NJ--As he begins a 16th season as head coach of the Bloomfield High girls' volleyball team, Louis Stevens knows the 2020 season will probably be different. But he's also thrilled with the way his team is approaching the campaign.
The Bengals began 'Phase 2' of the pre-season, with indoor practice that began on Aug. 10. The team spent the first few weeks in Phase 1, which was strictly conditioning, with no volleyball equipment used, and strictly outdoor work.
Phase 2 now includes equipment, but with a very strict approach to rules and regulations.
"We're doing everything by the book," said Stevens. "The girls have temperature checks before practice and we keep up with the forms the kids have to fill out. The volleyballs used in practice are assigned to each group, and the volleyballs aren't mixed and matched. We disinfect the volleyballs after each practice and the gym is cleaned daily."
The Bengals will practice through Aug. 28,for three days a week, then have about two weeks off, as school gets back in swing. Practices will resume on Sept. 14, there will probably be one scrimmage, and the regular season commences in early October.
Stevens coaches the girls and boys volleyball teams at BHS. The boys season is held in the spring, so the coach already knows the disappointment of missing a full season, as the Bengals didn't play last spring.
"That was tough for those kids," said Stevens. "Obviously, we want to get on the court, as scheduled, this fall. The kids are very excited. They've come into practice in good shape and are looking forward to playing this fall."
Stevens hasn't named captains for this fall, yet.
"Right now, we're trying to get everything going with practice and work on the basics," said Stevens. "When we come back on September 14, for official tryouts, I'll have a better idea."
Bloomfield finished 11-14 last season. The team will play in the Super Essex Conference's Liberty Division in 2020.
"It's a good division for us," said Stevens. "There are always strong teams in the Liberty. With the change in schedule this fall, we'll play the teams in our division, and maybe a few in the American, as well."
The annual volleyball tournament that Stevens and his program host each fall has already been canceled. The Essex County Tournament is still questionable. There should be a state tournament in November.
"We're all learning as we go along," said Stevens. "Right now, it's about teaching volleyball technique and working on our conditioning. We want the kids to have fun and learn the game."
Stevens' coaching staff will once again include Ron Gasparri and Daniel Barry.
"Ron and Daniel have been with me for a long time, for both the boys and girls program," said Stevens. "They do a great job."