The strangest offseason of Anna Stevenson’s athletic career dragged on into May as she continued individual workouts at home in Gray Court, anxious to return to Louisville for her final season of collegiate volleyball.
The former Laurens Academy and Laurens District High School volleyball standout is looking forward to a senior season that could surpass a stellar junior year at Louisville. She transferred from Auburn and joined the Cardinals this past summer, helping them to an Elite 8 appearance and an upset of No. 2 Texas along the way. Stevenson recorded 14 kills and four blocks in the upset of the Longhorns.
“I think we have high expectations,” Stevenson said. “But no two seasons are going to be the same. We want to go farther but it’s a totally different year, We will se how quickly we come together. We’re coming back with a core group that’s already been together with an influx of young players, but we won’t have to count on them immediately.”
Having a talented core group, which includes Stevenson, could be important as the Cardinals hope to challenge for the Atlantic Coast Conference championship.
Getting to that point during COVID-19 is an uncharted path for Stevenson and her teammates as they rely on virtual team meetings and instruction from coaches and plan for a 2020 season that is still written in pencil due to the pandemic.
Louisville became the first ACC school to announce a timeline for 30 football players and 30 men’s and women’s basketball players to return to campus beginning June 3. If all goes well, another 20 football players 60 Olympic sport athletes would return on June 10.
Like other student-athletes locally – from middle school to college – Stevenson said she has had to rely on individual conditioning workouts and weight resistance training to stay in shape. Those workouts come from the coaching staff as allowed by NCAA rules during the pandemic.
Stevenson, a second-team all-ACC performer as a middle blocker in 2019, said she has missed the weight room and she has discovered “jump” training is more difficult without her teammates beside her.
“We have two days a week that are jump days, and our workouts are jumping over and over and over on Mondays and Thursdays,” she said. “It’s just hard to do alone. It’s not the same as playing and jumping and doing it with teammates. It’s just me outside in the sun, sweating in the driveway for the entertainment of the people who drive by.”
While Stevenson is intent on getting back to school for what is expected to be her final collegiate season, she said she is also looking at continuing her volleyball career after college in the professional ranks.
USA Volleyball and Athletes United announced in April the formation of a single-site professional women’s volleyball league that is to begin play in 2021, but volleyball players have traditionally gone overseas to compete professionally.
Stevenson said she has casually looked into her options, talking with other players about their professional experiences.
“I would absolutely love to stay in America and play,” Stevenson said. “I think it would be great because I hate being too far from people that I love. I would love that, but I also think that playing overseas and being paid to live in a whole other country is a kind of unique opportunity, so I feel like I need to try overseas at least once.”
Brazil and Italy are homes to two of the top women’s volleyball league’s in the world.
But for now, Stevenson said she is focused on challenging Pitt for the ACC championship as a senior. The Panthers were a perfect 18-0 in conference play a year ago, while Louisville finished a pack of four teams at 12-6 in third place.
She said she decided to leave Auburn after a favorite assistant coach departed, adding that she still misses her former teammates.
But there are no regrets.
“I think Auburn was the perfect place for me for my first two years of college,” Stevenson said. “But Louisville has for sure been the place that I’m mean to be for my last two years.”