LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Before they left for Omaha and NCAA Tournament bubble life, the University of Louisville volleyball team reflected on the strange journey it's been getting to this point.
"It is so different than any season past, but I feel like it's just been so long at this point that it's just the new normal," senior middle blocker Anna Stevenson said. "I just don't think about it anymore."
"You really don't get that mental break where you just work on your skills and work through some things and try new things," head coach Dani Busboom Kelly added. "It's just getting ready to play. That was the biggest challenge. Our players did an amazing job getting ready to come back and compete in February."
They had five matches canceled due to COVID-19 issues but finished 14-2 overall and won the ACC Tournament title to secure a No. 11 overall seed. Before leaving for Omaha, the team was learning about how life might be in the NCAA Tournament bubble.
"We try to — in a normal year — get out and do things and see things in cities," Busboom Kelly said. "So we're going to be a little more confined to our hotel rooms, which will definitely be an adjustment."
"We're going to be disrupted," added sophomore outside hitter Claire Chaussee. "We're going to have sleeping issues, most likely. So (U of L's sports psychologist) gave us thank you cards to write out, things to write out for our teammates every day. So it's going to be pretty smooth, I hope."
They also can't have much of any contact with people outside of their team travel party without risking quarantine or disqualification. But the good news is that they should have a fair amount of support.
Each player is allowed four tickets for family and friends that can make it, but Busboom Kelly is essentially going back home. She grew up about an hour and a half from Omaha and won national championships as both a player and an assistant coach there while at Nebraska.
"My mom's already gotten rid of all our ticket allotment, so we should have more fans than any other team maybe other than Nebraska and Creighton," she said.
The Cardinals open against San Diego, a winner Wednesday in the opening round over Texas A&M Corpus Christi. It's a noon eastern start Thursday in Omaha.
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