Sophie Riemersma was hoping to end her volleyball career on a positive note.
But instead a positive test kept her from participating in her team’s final match of her senior year at Miami (Ohio).
It was the final tipping point in something Riemersma had been weighing ever since the NCAA announced that athletes who were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic could have an extra year of eligibility.
After being forced to watch what could have been her final volleyball match one livestream from home, Riemersma decided to act on the extra year of eligibility and committed to Jacksonville State, another NCAA Division I program.
“I had to miss my last match of my career at Miami because I tested asymptomatically for COVID. It was so devastating to end that way. I knew I didn’t want to end my volleyball career like that,” Riemersma said. “Thankfully I got my senior night three weeks before, but it was still incredibly disappointing to be home when my teammates were fighting. I didn’t want to stop playing the game of volleyball.”
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Jacksonville State is in the Atlantic Sun conference and is located in Jacksonville, Alabama. So the former Michigan Miss Volleyball finalist from Zeeland East is headed south.
“I chose Jacksonville State because they had a strong MBA program and were everything I was looking for in a volleyball program. They had strong seasons the past couple of years and won some conference championships,” Riemersma said. “As soon as I spent a little time on campus, I could picture myself there. I am excited to be part of the program even if it is for a short year.”
Riemersma will start her masters in business administration after graduating from Miami this spring.
“Part of my decision to continue to play was because of the love I do have for the game of volleyball. COVID had its ups and downs, but it has given me the opportunity to play another season. I am thankful to have that opportunity while earning my masters degree,” she said.
It is another opportunity to end on a healthy note. It wasn’t just COVID-19 that played a role in her career at Miami. She sustained a torn labrum, a broken hand and two concussions. With the extra year, she will have the opportunity to prove herself in a full healthy season, something she hasn’t been able to do since earning MAC All-Freshman honors.
“I will have to play more instinctually because it is a new situationI,” Riemersma said. “I am just excited to see how much I can grow as a person and as a player within one year. I am going to a place I have never really been before. I am looking to have a completely new experience and hoping I grow from it. I want to see how adaptable I can be. I am excited to try something new.”
— Contact Sports Editor Dan D’Addona at Dan.D’Addona@hollandsentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanDAddona and Facebook @Holland Sentinel Sports.