Kicking It Down the Line

Pepperdine Waves women’s soccer players celebrate a goal versus Saint Mary’s during a 2019 matchup.

Members of the Pepperdine Waves women’s soccer team won’t kick any competitive goals this year, and members of the school’s women’s volleyball team must wait a few extra months to stuff an opponent’s scoring attempt or rocket the ball over the net. 

The two squads, along with the Waves men’s and women’s cross country teams, are among a bevy of West Coast Conference college sports teams that won’t take the competitive playing field this fall due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The West Coast Conference announced on Aug. 13 that the seasons of the fall sports teams from its 10 member schools will instead—hopefully—have their seasons next spring. The conference’s Presidents’ Council along with Commissioner Gloria Nevarez and the universities’ athletic directors decided to postpone fall play after weeks of discussion. 

Waves women’s volleyball coach Scott Wong said he supported the conference’s move. 

“We understand we are a part of a community that needs us to lead greater than ever and to our part in any way that we can,” he said. “We hope for the opportunity to return to campus and safely train this fall with the goal of competing this spring.” 

Pepperdine Director of Athletics Dr. Steve Potts said the health and safety of student-athletes, coaches and staff is the primary concern.

“This decision, while devastating for our fall sports student-athletes, does offer the hope for competing in the spring of 2021,” he said in a statement from the university. “While we are well-prepared and are taking the necessary steps to create the safest possible environment, this decision to postpone fall sports until spring 2021 provides additional time to focus on improving our plans, protocols and procedures, while also giving our country the opportunity to get the pandemic under control so that we may return to play as soon as it is feasible.”

Nevarez said the decision was difficult, but a responsible one based on the information associated with hosting competitions in the current environment. 

“We empathize with our student-athletes,” she said in a Pepperdine statement. “WCC programs compete for national titles and we never want to take these opportunities away. However, health and safety will always be paramount in guiding our decisions. We must ensure our student-athletes have a safe environment to compete and meet the NCAA’s guidelines for Resocialization of Collegiate Sport, along with current federal, state and local health and safety measures in place at each member institution.”

Aside from cross country, women’s soccer and women’s volleyball—the only fall WCC sports Pepperdine fields teams in—the other sport delayed until after the new year is men’s soccer. 

The delay of the conference’s fall sports schedule does not prevent WCC schools from scheduling non-conference competitions in low-risk sports in the fall. 

Waves’ cross country and track coach Sylvia Mosqueda said she is saddened for her athletes who worked hard during last spring’s track season, which ended early because of the pandemic, and the cross country runners who have had their fall season delayed.

“I’m confident that these resilient student-athletes will persevere and come back stronger as soon as we are allowed to do so,” she said. “As disappointed as I am, I couldn’t be prouder of my athletes.”

Pepperdine’s women’s soccer coach Tim Ward said in another statement that, although the postponement of the fall season is disappointing, the soccer program will use this “season of life” to aim toward the team’s higher purpose. 

“We are going to do our very best to make sure our student-athletes understand their value doesn’t simply come from their excellence on the field,” he said. “And so, what an opportunity we have to explore, dialogue, listen and grow in a variety of areas for not only ourselves, but for our respective communities and teams.” 

The conference does want its men’s and women’s basketball teams to dribble out onto the hardwood in the winter, as it normally does, though. 

“We are committed to providing the safeguards to conduct a men’s and women’s basketball season this winter,” Nevarez said.