From left: Nicole Miller, Ashlyn Eby, Meghan Hickey and Skylar Hedgepeth chase down a loose ball during an intrasquad scrimmage this fall. The four are members of EMU's women's lacrosse team, which debuted in spring 2020 and played just two games before the coronavirus pandemic shut down competition. Needless to say, they and coach Katie Russo are anxious for the spring 2021 season to begin, as are all Royals athletes. (Photo by Jared Oyer)

Photoessay: Royals athletes prep for spring competition

EMU’s student-athletes didn’t compete last semester because of COVID restrictions and the cessation of conference competition, but they still practiced, conditioned, and laid strong foundations to prepare for spring semester competition.

In a recent Fireside Gathering hosted by Director of Athletics Dave King, several coaches shared ways their players have connected.

Women’s basketball head coach Jenny Posey noted that in general, fewer practices “gave the players the opportunity to not only learn our individual team cultures a little bit more, but learn the new culture on campus.”

She and her staff focused on creating safe spaces for the teammates to be together, she said. “We’ve used the term, not ‘socially distancing,’ but ‘physically distancing,’ because we want our kids to be socially connected still, so we were really intentional about finding the opportunities for them to do that this semester.”

Casey Steinbrecher, who took over the women’s volleyball program just days before things were shut down in March, said he saw a real desire to spend time together and connect, which made practice times and other interactions especially valuable to creating a new team culture. “We talked about culture every single day.  We talked about ‘we over me.’”

“COVID has taught us there are a lot of different connections we can make,” said women’s lacrosse coach Katie Russo. “(We put) a big emphasis on the team chemistry. They were all physically distanced and they had masks on, but we still had a great time and we were able to really connect.”

Along with athletes and coaching staff, King is looking forward to the promise of a return to competition for all sports. “I am very proud of the student-athletes and their cooperation with the safety protocols in place during practices this fall,” he said. “This gives me hope for the spring when we will need to be extra vigilant in our safety efforts in following EMU, ODAC and NCAA protocols.”

Jared Oyer, a senior visual and communications arts major, interned with EMU’s marketing and communications department this semester and spent much of his time documenting the athletics teams.

This photoessay captures practices and the intrasquad scrimmages that some teams were able to play at the end of the semester. We supplemented Oyer’s photos with others taken for media purposes in order to showcase all of our teams.

Even the masks don’t obscure the intensity of effort and the devotion of our Royals student-athletes, who persevered under significant challenges and uncertainty this semester.

To keep up with our EMU Royals, visit emuroyals.com for schedules, rosters and updated information. Also follow EMU Royals on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Two-time ODAC All-Academic Team honoree Bethany Shultz (Harrisonburg, Va./Eastern Mennonite School) warms up. She’s entering her junior season under new coach Casey Steinbrecher. Sarah East (Washington, Va. / Rappahannock County) is in the background. (Photo by Jared Oyer)


From left: Jacob Durren (Gloucester, Va./Gloucester); Ben Childers (attacking) (Chesterfield, Va. / Matoaca); #14 David Ward (Gloucester, Va./ Gloucester); #4 Josh White (Chesapeake, Va./Bishop Sullivan), and Nick Rodgers (blocking) (Mechanicsville, Va./Mechanicsville). For more on the team, which competes in the Continental Volleyball Conference, read the Season Check-in. (Photo by Becca Boone)


From left: Ben Shenk (Elkton, Va./Page County), Chris Fenn (Glen Allen, Va./Glen Allen) and Simon Parmer (Harrisonburg, Va. / Spotswood). Shenk and Fenn are seniors and Parmer a first-year. More on the team here. (Photo by Scott Eyre)


Assistant coach Sheldon Rice with first-year athletes (from left) Rebecca Arias (Lorton, Va. / South County), Kayla Atwood (Broadway, Va. / Broadway), and Maria Bettilyon (Virginia Beach, Va. / Ocean Lakes), who goes on to complete the drill in the photo below. (Photos by Jared Oyer)


Jordan Jones (Saxe, Va./Randolph Henry), who played all 19 games during the shortened 2020 season, takes a swing during the annual fall tradition, the “Blue-Black World Series.” Matthew Harding is catching. (Photo by Jared Oyer)


Softball players Emily Davis (King George, Va. / Fredericksburg Christian), Emily Campbell (Broadway, Va. / Broadway), and Korenn Paige (Winchester, Va. / Sherando). For more on the team, check out this article. (Photo by Scott Eyre)


Tim Jones (Forestville, Md. / Central), a senior point guard, brings the ball down the court during an intrasquad scrimmage this fall. The business adminstration major earned two academic honors last season as a member of the ODAC All-Academic Team and the NABC Honors Court. (Photo by Jared Oyer)


Sophomore goalkeeper Micah Buckwalter (Fulks Run, Va. / Broadway) was an ODAC All-Academic Team honoree last year.


From left: Vanessa Gardiner (Springfield, Va./John R. Lewis), Constance Komara (Harrisonburg, Va./Harrisonburg), May Wadman (Purcellville, Va./ Homeschool) in an intrasquad scrimmage. (Photo by Jared Oyer)


Women’s track and field team member Kendra Oguamena (Alexandria, Va. / T.C. Williams) works out with a weight ball at the outdoor track. (Photo by Kyle Dickinson)

Alijah Johnson (Upper Marlboro, Md./Frederick Douglass) works out on the track. (Photo by Kyle Dickinson)


From left: Rachel Breslin (Lititz, Pa. / Lancaster Mennonite) and Ashley Maldonado (Warrenton, Va. / Fauquier) at field hockey practice. (Photo by Jared Oyer)


Cross country runners headed to Highland Retreat for a time trial. Haley Corbin (Waynesboro, Va./Waynesboro) (left) and Clay Kauffman (Broadway, Va./Broadway) are in the front.(Photo by Allison Shelly)


Special thanks to our intern Jared Oyer (above, in February 2020) for his work over a challenging fall semester. (Photo by Rachel Holderman)

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