The Myrtle Beach High volleyball team is supposed to be in the midst of defending its Class 4A state championship. Instead, the Lady Seahawks are waiting for their home opener so they can raise the banner.
They are just one of many area fall sports squads that have been sidelined for at least three weeks in the wake of Hurricane Florence. With Horry County Schools closed since Sept. 11 and all athletics activities canceled via school policy, local teams are growing tired of sitting on the sidelines while the rest of the state continues to compete.
“We’ve got a very young team, so for us to miss this much time with all the new faces on varsity, it’s a tough thing,” said Myrtle Beach volleyball coach Larry Church, whose team hasn't played a match since Aug. 25. “But we also realize that there are a lot of people in the community dealing with a lot worse things right now.”
The South Carolina High School League provided a bit of relief Monday with its decision to extend the volleyball, swimming and girls tennis seasons by one week, just as it did with football on Sept. 19. But the lost time will make it difficult for HCS athletes to compete with those who missed little or no time due to the storm.
“The schools most affected by flooding and unable to practice or compete have expressed a strong desire to continue their season with the aid of an additional week and/or schedule considerations,” SCHSL commissioner Jerome Singleton said in a statement. “It is our hope to serve the best interest of the membership as a whole with consideration to those schools who have had their schedules revamped due to no fault of their own.”
Church was one of those coaches to place a call to the governing body to make the case for area teams. While the rest of the state plays on business as usual, the Grand Strand and Pee Dee regions have missed out on valuable training and competition needed to challenge for a state championship on a level playing field.
“I called the league office Friday to make my appeal for an extension (to the season), for a week at the very least,” Church said. “Even if we got back (Oct. 1), that’s three weeks off and three weeks until the playoffs start. That's just not enough time, but we will play the hand that we are dealt.”
The SCHSL added a week to the volleyball and girls tennis schedules, with the state championships pushed back to Nov. 10. Individual swimmers from Region 7 (Class 3A) and 8 (Class 4A and 5A) were granted an extra week (until Oct. 2) to post state qualifying times, however, the state championship meet remains set for Oct. 5-6.
No additional changes were made to football, with the state finals set for Dec. 7-8. Girls golf (Oct. 22-23), cross country (Nov. 3), and competitive cheer (Nov. 17) received no extension to their seasons, giving local athletes little time to gear up for a state title run.
Coaches and administrators also have reached out to HCS about the possibility of allowing voluntary practices to no avail. School policy forbids extra-curricular activities while schools are closed, and teams are required a varying amount of practice time before they can compete.