If things go according to plan — the Illinois High School Association's new, season-shaking plan released Wednesday afternoon — Madi Malone and the two-time defending state champion Newark volleyball team should get the chance to go for the three-peat.
It's not ideal and it's far from certain, the all-state, Division I-bound outside hitter admits.
But it's good to know she and her teammates still have that chance.
"I’m not totally surprised," Malone said Wednesday after hearing the IHSA announcement which pushed the girls volleyball season along with football and boys soccer back to spring and shortened sports seasons throughout the school year.
"In my opinion, this is the best scenario for volleyball. We still get to have a season, and it’s further away, so hopefully everything (with COVID-19) is going to be calmed down. I’m pretty happy with the scenario we’ve been placed in. …
"I think it will definitely be different, and figuring it all out — practices and games and when club will be — will take some time. But once they get that all figured out, I think it will work out fine."
The issue of managing conflicting schedules will be a tricky one, be it competing with travel/club sport schedules, working around the state's requirements for reduced travel or potentially losing student-athletes to early graduation/college commitments.
For now, however, every sport has a place — even if it's not its normal place — on the IHSA's revised schedule.
"Although nothing would have been better than going right into normal fall sports, I’m not upset about the new plan," said Princeton multi-sport standout Katie Bates, whose normal fall sport, volleyball, has been pushed back to spring along with football and boys soccer. "I’m happy that it still gives us the opportunity to play each sport season, even if it is shortened.
"It also gives students the opportunity to play new sports that they might not have gotten the chance to play before because it conflicted with another sport in the same season."
The staggering of the seasons (fall running August 10-October 24; winter November 16-February 13; spring February 15-May 1; summer May 3-June 26) could be a benefit to athletes like Marquette Academy’s Luke Couch, who has the potential to play in college in both football and baseball.
“It’s definitely different,” Couch said. “It’s great that golf, cross country and the others get to stay in the fall. … It will give everyone more time to prepare for their seasons as much as they can in the restrictions. I’d rather the seasons not be as short as they obviously have to be, but at least we get to have a season.
"I’m very happy about that.”
The IHSA's revised schedule brought on mixed emotions for Ottawa two-sport athlete Ella Marvel. A state-champion contender in girls tennis — which will remain in the fall albeit with scheduling restrictions and an uncertain postseason — Marvel is also the point guard of the Lady Pirates basketball team whose season is still in doubt due to the state's restriction on which sports can compete.
"I was excited about tennis," Marvel said, "because after all the hard work during the summer is going to be able to pay off because we're going to get a season. I'm pretty excited, but I know things aren't going to be exactly normal.
"I obviously know how tough it is. Everyone has been putting a lot of work in this summer, and it really does suck (athletes in the postponed sports of football, boys soccer and volleyball) won't be able to play in the fall. My heart goes out to them."
Fieldcrest multi-sport star Jaxon Cusac-McKay also fits in that "mixed emotions" category.
"My first reaction was, it's a big bummer," said Cusac-McKay. "It's the boys of fall, and you love to play in the fall under the lights. But I'm just thankful that we have a chance and hopefully a pretty good possibility to play in the spring.
"The main thing is to get to play. It's upsetting, but in the same sense, it's great. We were all thinking the worst would happen, but this is one of the better things that could have come out of this."
Another gridiron star, Northern Illinois University-bound running back Ronde Worrels of Princeton, is grateful he and his teammates still might be able to follow up on the Tigers' fantastic 2019 campaign.
"We get a season," said Worrels. "Princeton football will be a very prepared team in the spring, that’s for sure."
Maddie Bromberek, a standout for Seneca in both volleyball and basketball, is disappointed she will have to wait until Feb. 15 to have her season at the net but grateful she could be able to play.
“I’m really not too happy about it, but it’s true, at least we’re going to have a volleyball season,” said Bromberek. “I was so looking forward to it this fall, but I could see having it in the spring as a positive. The weather will be nicer, the gyms will be cooler, and from the dates we’ll be playing, it looks like I’ll still get to take part in track again.
“For my senior season, I guess, I can’t be too unhappy about it. I’m grateful we have a season, even if it is different from what we’re used to.”
Shaw Media's Charlie Ellerbrock, Kevin Hieronymus and Brian Hoxsey contributed to this report.