Keegan Cook was on the road recruiting, actually, when all coronavirus hell was breaking loose just a few miles from his home in Kirkland, Washington.
Not that he was oblivious to what was going on back home.
A nursing home in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland was initial epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“The whole thing is scary. We’ve got some volleyball friends in Italy and Slovenia so we were hearing stuff before it got here,” Cook said.
And, now like everyone else in volleyball, the Washington coach has shut it down. No on-the-road recruiting, no team to be around, no spring workouts or matches. In Cook’s case, he’s answered the call and come up with some VolleyOnVideo segments on Instagram and Twitter. We have links below.
“Otherwise, staying at home and walking to the grocery store and walking back and that’s about it,” Cook said last week. “It’s the only thing we’ve done the past or five days.”
Like a lot of teams, Washington has used Zoom to have entire-team video meetings.
“it was fun to see their faces again,” Cook said. “They were laughing and it was like a normal team gathering, for the most part.”
In the meeting last week, “they made the unfortunate decision to cancel school functions at Washington and have all classes be online for the rest of the term, so I had to break that news to them, which was difficult.”
“We had to get them organized, including those who were in dorms in moving out of the dorms. We talked to them about the logistics, ‘Hey, you’re going to be home, like we need your mailing address for things we’re going to send you.’ Just one of those talks.
The Washington roster has players from all over, but a few from the Pacific Northwest. Middle Lauren Sanders, who will be a senior, is from the Seattle suburb of Snohomish. Outside Samantha Drechsel, who will also be a senior, is from nearby Woodinville.
Three players who were seniors, All-American outside Kara Bajema, middle Avie Niece, and libero Shayne McPherson, are from Washington. Bajema is from the northern town of Lynden, Niece is from Bellingham, and McPherson is from Seattle.
They, of course, had somewhere to drive to, as did many of their teammates from Oregon and California.
Outside Maria Bogomolova, who will be a senior, got out quick and flew home to St. Petersburg, Russia.
“That was a tough one, but she’s home safe,” Cook said. “That was a tough decision.”
Teams — especially women’s volleyball teams — thrive on their togetherness.
“They are not used to running solo, that’s for sure,” Cook said. “They’re used to being active and social, so you take those two things away from them they all get a little anxious.”
It goes without saying that the players need to stay safe and stay strong academically, but what about staying in shape for volleyball?
“It’s tough. We know that our campus won’t be open soon,” Cook said. “We’re hoping maybe by May some of their clubs (in their respective hometowns) will have their facilities open. If the clubs are open maybe they’ll have a place to actually do some volleyball.
“That’s the only thing we can hope for and it’s just an eventuality we’ve talked about.”
Washington finished 27-7 last season, 15-5 in the Pac-12, which left the Huskies alone in second behind Stanford. In the NCAA Tournament, Washington beat Winthrop, South Carolina and Kentucky before losing in four at top-seeded Baylor in the NCAA regional final.
“She’s probably one of the better kids I’ve recruited in my five years here,” Cook said. “She’s one of the top three to five outside hitters in the country right now for her age. We’re hoping she can fill the void.
“But we’re pretty full at pretty much every position except for libero. We have some work to do there. So we’ll see.”
And in the meantime they’ll meet as a team with Zoom and “have some readings and talk about some leadership concepts and maybe watch some film together. So there will be some work they can expect.”
“Yeah, we’re in that process of trying to figure out what we can do to help them get better.”
Here are the first four installments of Cook’s videos for VolleyOn:
With playing and practicing on hold, Coach Cook has some advice for athletes who still want to learn and study the game!
— Washington Volleyball (@UWVolleyball) March 17, 2020
📽️ We're back with Episode 4 of Volley On! You can still throw a block party safe at home with these blocking tips from Coach Cook! 🙌🙌
— Washington Volleyball (@UWVolleyball) March 24, 2020