BYU mens volleyball vs. UCSB 17

Brigham Young University setter Brody Earnest (24) talks with his teammates before a game between the BYU Cougars and the UCSB Gauchos held at Smith Fieldhouse on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, in Provo. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

Here’s what’s going on inside Darnell’s head after the strangest four days of (non) sports I have ever experienced.

March is usually one of the busiest months of the year for a sports writer, but we are all, like you, trying to figure out what comes next. We expect some down times during June and July — that’s usually when most of us take vacations — but March is a magical sports month.

Not March 2020.

A daily reminder

Technology is amazing, isn’t it?

To keep my busy schedule straight, for years I’ve entered appointments and events into my Google calendar. Like clockwork, an hour before each event, Google sends me a reminder that pops up on my phone and my smartwatch.

On Friday night, I was watching a movie with my wife when my smartwatch chimed. It was an hour before the BYU-Stanford men’s volleyball match was supposed to start. Of course, the match had been canceled earlier in the day.

I haven’t had the heart to turn off or delete any of my notifications.

My smartwatch and my phone will continue to remind me of events I had scheduled: A BYU baseball game. The NCAA Tournament selection show. The NFL draft.

As a sports writer, my life moments are generally measured between games I cover and interviews I conduct. Yeah, it’s a job, but I love sports.

I’m really missing them right now.

Let’s get together

Drive-in theaters have pretty much disappeared from our culture and if there is one nearby it wouldn’t generally be open this time of year. But it would sure be nice to have a local drive-in showing the latest movies. Then we could all maintain our social distance to address COVID-19 while still enjoying a community experience. If you snuck anyone into the drive-in stuffed into your trunk, raise your hand.

Get to work

I’ve seen a few “One Shining Moment” college basketball videos on social media. Some have been general highlights, others team specific. But no BYU-specific cut. Come on, guys. There are plenty of great shots of Cougars celebrating and winning in 2019-20. Get this done, OK?

Already there

I saw this comment a couple of times on Twitter from sports writers: “I found a lady sitting on my couch today. Apparently she’s my wife. She seems nice.”

It’s funny, but not based in reality for a sports writer. Most of us have been working at home for more than a decade. I see my wife pretty much every day and we spend plenty of time together. I guess this is an opportunity to spend more.

Keep calm

My grocery shopping experience last week was a little crazy, but not too bad. Everyone I shopped with seemed to be calm and just trying to get a few extra things for the pantry. The same things were low or completely gone from each store: canned goods, paper products and water. I actually went to four different stores in two days because I just wanted a couple of jars of spaghetti sauce and garlic bread, because hang the virus, the Dicksons were going to have a good Sunday dinner.

And so we did.

That’s my brother

When it looked like the NCAA Tournament was going to be played in front of just immediate family, I figured BYU would have a big advantage because there are some pretty large families out there. I could see a BYU fan showing up at an NCAA Tournament site and claiming relationships based on the Family Search app.

Then the whole thing was canceled.

And now …

I feel as if I need to include some normal sports news in my column to keep things sane. So here are a couple of items.

Sign him up

BYU men’s basketball picked up a pretty big commitment from Fremont guard Dallin Hall on Friday. He’s 6-foot-3, shoots the lights out and already has a college-level body in terms of strength. He plans serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before enrolling. After watching how the Cougars shared the ball this year, I would think playing in Provo would be pretty attractive for just about anybody Mark Pope opts to recruit.

A new future

In 2019, the BYU women’s volleyball team failed to make the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in seven years.

The 2020 team is in serious transition. All-Americans Mary Lake and McKenna Miller will graduate in June. All-WCC first team middle blocker Heather Gneiting decided to serve a church mission and she’s already in Seattle, Washington. In addition, outside hitter Madi Robinson opted to transfer to the University of Utah.

That leaves just two starters returning in sophomore setter Whitney Bower and senior middle blocker Kennedy Eschenberg for the Cougars, who finished 26-5 overall and 16-2 in WCC play.

The 2020 roster is extremely young, comprised of six freshmen (four of them true freshmen), five sophomores, two juniors and three seniors. I’m interested in getting a look at the freshmen class that includes 6-1 Leilani Dodson, a very talented middle blocker from LaGrange, Illinois; 6-3 outside hitter Makayla Tolman (Burley, Idaho) and 6-4 middle blocker Allie Hakes (Folsom, California).

Remember this name: Kate Grimmer, a 6-foot sophomore outside hitter and lefty who has the potential to be pretty special.

It’s going to be a real challenge for 2018 Coach of the Year Heather Olmstead and her staff.

Enjoy the journey

Former BYU All-American volleyball player Ossie Antonetti is the founder of Proyecto JDB, which provides volleyball opportunities for young players in Spain. He sent me an email last week — before all the craziness, cancellations and hysteria — with some of his thoughts about this year’s Cougar volleyball team, which earned the No. 1 ranking last Monday and was the favorite to win a national title in May.

Antonetti was an outside hitter on the first BYU team to win an NCAA championship in 1999 and a very emotional leader. After the events of the last four days, his comments become even more poignant. He titled his thoughts “The Hourglass.”

“On the road to a championship I don’t want a speedy stopwatch, I want an hourglass,” Antonetti wrote. “The stopwatch makes me quicken my pace. An hourglass allows me to keep time and continue to improve, spend more time with my teammates, face each other every day in training and push ourselves to sharpen our team’s culture.

“The speedy stopwatch relies on expectation and fleetness. The hourglass means a commitment to learning from our mistakes until every last grain of sand has run out.

“Above all, an hourglass helps us treasure each moment of the journey, which, if done right, is more important than the result.”

That’s all I’ve got but for this: We’ll get through this COVID-19 crisis if we treat each other with respect and show concern for our fellow men. It’s that simple. Have a great week, wash your hands frequently and be safe.

Follow Darnell Dickson on Twitter @darnellwrites or e-mail him at ddickson@heraldextra.com.

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