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Tentative as it may be, Mountain West fall and spring athletic teams received some welcome news Thursday.
The conference announced adjusted regular-season formats for baseball, volleyball and women’s soccer for the spring of 2021. The latter two sports had their fall seasons pushed back because of the coronavirus pandemic and will play abbreviated, conference-only schedules in the spring.
According to a Mountain West release, baseball will play a shortened, conference-heavy schedule while softball and men’s and women’s tennis retain their usual regular-season formats.
Collegiate sports have been in a near-constant state of flux during the ongoing pandemic and the formats announced Thursday may or may not prove final for MWC teams. Still, coaches and student-athletes on affected teams were glad to see something in writing.
“We’re jumping for joy just knowing that we get to compete,” University of New Mexico volleyball coach Jon Newman-Gonchar said. “This gives us a target date to work toward. We’ll take any number of games they give us.”
Only football and men’s and women’s basketball teams have been allowed to practice in recent weeks, and those programs have been limited to non-contact drills in groups of five people or fewer under New Mexico’s coronavirus mandates. Volleyball held its last workouts Oct. 12, and players, who are taking their classes online, have since gone home, Newman-Gonchar said.
“It’s not ideal, but we understand the circumstances,” he said. “At this point we’re just rooting for football and basketball to get their seasons going safely and we’ll try to learn from them.”
Here is a quick look at the adjusted MWC sport formats announced Thursday.
BASEBALL: Teams play a 36-game, double round-robin conference schedule from Feb. 27-May 29. Three-game series will include doubleheaders on Saturday and single games Sunday (except over Easter weekend and the season’s final week). Teams can play up to 11 non-conference games and there will be no conference tournament. The regular-season champ receives the automatic NCAA berth.
VOLLEYBALL: Teams play a 16-match conference-only schedule from Feb. 5-April 3. Hybrid schedule will have teams facing six opponents twice on back-to-back weekend dates at a single site. Teams will play the remaining four opponents once over the final two weeks of the season. UNM will play Colorado State, Utah State, Fresno State and San Jose State just once, Newman-Gonchar said. Regular-season MWC champ receives automatic NCAA berth.
WOMEN’S SOCCER: Teams play a 10-match conference-only schedule from March 5-April 11. Each team will play five divisional opponents twice with matches on Fridays and Sundays. The two division winners will play a conference championship match on April 17 to determine the MWC’s automatic NCAA berth. Divisional alignments had not been finalized as of Thursday.