Kylie Zimmerman
Bishop Diego’s Kylie Zimmerman hits against Santa Ynez blockers Jasmine Rudd (20) and Kaki Allen (15) during a grass-court match between the girls indoor teams at Bishop. (Gary Kim / Noozhawk photo)

It was game day, and Bishop Diego volleyball player Amanda Garcia was experiencing emotions she hadn’t felt in more than a year.

She couldn’t focus in class; she felt nervousness, excitement and anticipation of playing in a match later in the day.

After months of no sports because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Garcia and her Bishop indoor volleyball teammates were back on the court Friday afternoon for their first competition since the fall of 2019. The court, however, was outside on the grass of the Bishop athletic field.

It didn’t matter. The masked Bishop and Santa Ynez teams engaged in a spirited match that was won by the host Cardinals in four sets, 25-20, 25-16, 22-25 and 28-26.

The match was attended by masked parents, who watched and cheered from bleachers set up on the south side of the court area. The parents followed social distancing.

The match was held on the grass because state health guidelines permitted a minimal-risk, yellow-tiered sport such as high school indoor volleyball to be played outdoors, provided the county reached the metric of 14 adjusted COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people.

Bishop and Santa Ynez are being joined by the indoor girls teams from Cabrillo, Lompoc, Providence, Carpinteria and Saint Bonaventure in an outdoor grass volleyball circuit until the CIF’s end date of play on March 20.

“I was extremely nervous,” Garcia said about playing in the first match since the fall of 2019. “I was so jittery I wanted to play so bad. The whole time during school I was like, ‘Oh, my God, I want to get to my game.’ I was trying to hurry throughout the day. I was super excited for our game.”

Parents at VB match on grass

Parents were permitted to attend Friday’s grass-court volleyball match between Bishop Diego and Santa Ynez. (Gary Kim / Noozhawk photo)

Before the match, Bishop held a Senior Day ceremony for Garcia, Ashlyn Oxton, Katelyn Hoidal and Annika Mager.

“It was really fun,” Oxton said of playing again. “We were all super nervous before, but I’m really happy we got to play an actual game because it’s been hard not being able to play or practice a lot.

“I’m happy our coach and athletic director set this up and we were able to play.”

Both seniors said they missed playing for Bishop. 

“It was really hard not being able to play because it’s the sport I love to play,” Oxton said.

“I was super devastated because our season got canceled at first, and volleyball was the one thing I look forward to when I come to school,” Garcia said. “I was like, ‘There’s no point of me going to school now; I’d rather just go online.’ But when I heard we were getting our season back, I was so excited. I wanted to come back to school.”

Santa Ynez parent Sherrie Martin said it was “awesome” to see the girls playing again. Martin’s daughter, Ashley, is a sophomore on the team.

“I don’t understand why we haven’t done this before now. It’s great to see. Look how much fun they’re having. They’re having a great time,” she said.

An assistant coach for the freshman and JV teams, Martin said she missed watching Ashley and her teammates play.

“It’s been hard,” she said. “We’ve had conditioning since September. You try to keep their spirits up. It’s been a challenge.”

They’re back now, hustling on the court, making plays, playing with enthusiasm, doing whatever it takes to score a point. And cheering.

“Side out, hey, hey … Side out.”

After putting away her first kill, Oxton said, “It felt so good. It’s been awhile since I felt that feeling.”

Garcia was thrilled to be back on the volleyball court, even it wasn’t indoors.

“I don’t want to go through my senior year without playing my favorite sport,” she said. “I’m so grateful to be playing volleyball again.”

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

— Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.