The South Dakota Mines women's volleyball team's first trip to the RMAC postseason tournament is a no-go after all.
In a release Tuesday morning, the Mines athletic department announced the Hardrockers withdrawal from the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference tournament due to COVID-19 issues.
"It is with great disappointment that I announce the South Dakota Mines volleyball program must withdraw from the RMAC tournament," said Hardrocker Athletics Director Joel Lueken. "It was a challenging year to say the least. Our volleyball program overcame many obstacles to get to the postseason only to have the journey end before it begins."
The Hardrockers were set to enter the RMAC tournament as the No. 6 seed and would have faced the No. 3 ranked CSU Pueblo ThunderWolves on Thursday in a quarterfinal match in Grand Junction, Colo.
The match will now be declared a no contest following the application of COVID-19 protocols involving the Hardrockers. Following the predetermined RMAC policy, CSU Pueblo shall advance within the bracket and play in the semifinals Friday.
The Hardrockers qualified for the playoffs and would have entered the tournament with a 5-9 overall record and 5-7 mark in the conference. This season is also the first time South Dakota Mines would have advanced to the RMAC post-season for the program.
"This hurts," Mines head coach Lauren Torvi Prochazka said on Twitter. "We missed 0 matches this year due to Covid in our program. Our women worked so incredibly hard to reach playoffs and did everything right. Our hearts are broken but we are grateful for the season we had. I love this team.
"This was a special group. We’ll be back..."
The premise of the RMAC COVID-19 policy as approved by the RMAC Presidents Council, from the very beginning of the current academic year, has been to rely on each institution's local public health authority to determine the status of a contest following COVID-19 screening protocols.
“The current health crisis brought on by the virus has presented significant challenges, the most significant being the tragic loss of life, health and way of living,” said RMAC Commissioner Chris Graham in a prepared release. “In athletics it has created inequitable and unavoidable consequences. We have placed the basis of our decision-making with local health experts in the very best interest of student-athlete safety. The RMAC stands by our policy while acknowledging that the conclusions of our decisions can be difficult for some.”
This is the second time in the past week that a team has dropped out of the tournament. Mines initially qualified as the No. 7 seed and was set to play No. 2 MSU Denver. Regis University, however, dropped out because of Covid issues and the University of Colorado Colorado Springs moved into the tournament as the No. 8 seed, meaning all teams ahead of the Mountain Lions would automatically move up, thus the No. 6 seed for the 'Rockers and a new quarterfinal opponent.
The current quarterfinal schedule has UCCS against No. 1 Colorado Mesa Thursday at 5 p.m., No. 5 Western Colorado vs. No. 4 Colorado Mines at 7:30 p.m. and No. 7 Colorado Christian vs. No. 2 MSU Denver at 1:30 p.m.
Semifinal action will be at 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Friday night and the championship is set for 6 p.m. Saturday.