For student-athletes headed to City College, COVID-19 creates uncertainty

Jillian Geenen makes the most of her time while sports are on pause

Jillian Geenen setting

Jillian Geenen (center) looks forward to when she will be able to start her volleyball career at San Diego City College. Jillian Geenen photo

Vicky Pineda, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Editor’s note: This is the seventh in an occasional series of journal entries produced by City Times staff highlighting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on members of our community.

Living in San Diego where it’s usually sunny and warm, the beach is a great place to visit.

But due to the ongoing pandemic, there have been restrictions on the beaches. That includes a favorite activity of Mission Bay High School senior Jillian Geenen.

“It has been hard since right now I would’ve been playing beach volleyball,” said Geenen, who has been playing competitively since fourth grade. “Since this season got canceled, it has been kinda hard to re-adjust, but I’m adapting.”

Jillian Geenen
Jillian Geenen will attend San Diego City College in the fall and play for the Knights volleyball team. Jillian Geenen photo

The loss of playing volleyball on the beach, not being able to be around her friends and missing out on the milestones associated with a senior year of high school — Geenen is still struggling to adjust to this new normal.

The novel coronavirus has put a halt to everyday life. As positive cases kept rising, sports at all levels have been sent into complete darkness indefinitely.

In March, San Diego Unified School District, the second largest school district in California, transitioned to operating remotely, leaving students at home to learn under the guidance of family.

That included Mission Bay High School and students like Geenen.

Geenen recently committed to San Diego City College to play volleyball starting this fall. Her close relationship with Knights volleyball coach Dede Bodnar helped make her decision.

“I’ve been going to coach Bodnar’s instructional camps for as long as I can remember,” Geenen said. “She is an amazing coach, I love her. She has so much passion for volleyball. She wants to help me get better and I wanna get better. And it just felt really good to commit to it.” 

Other schools reached out to Geenen but wouldn’t meet her athletic requirements. 

“City was a great and convenient choice for me,” Geenen said.

Although we are currently in quarantine, Geenen keeps in close communication with the coach.

“She cares and checks in (on) how I’m doing,” Geenen said. “She’s really excited for the season.” 

Mission Bay girls volleyball team
Jillian Geenen flips to the page in her high school yearbook featuring the Mission Bay High School girls volleyball team. Jillian Geenen photo

The Knights volleyball team finished the 2019 season with a 15-11 record overall and 4th place in the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference. City also made it to the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year.

Off the court, Geenen plans to major in animal science and behavior at City. She wants to work at an animal sanctuary, aquarium or zoo. But she also feels it can change in the future.

Geenen plans to eventually continue her education at a school that meets her academic and athletic goals. In a perfect world, Geenen wants to get a scholarship to continue to play volleyball, regardless of the division.

“I want to gain the best possible methods on how to be a better student, allow myself to grow into the career that I will later choose to do,” said Geenen in a follow-up email. 

Geenen played volleyball all through middle school and high school. Last fall, Mission Bay advanced to the quarterfinals of the CIF Division II playoffs, falling to eventual champion Valhalla.

She also plays during the high school off-season on a club volleyball team. 

“It is my sport, I love it, it’s such a great game,” said Geenen, a 5-foot-7 left-handed setter who was recognized on the San Diego Union-Tribune’s All-Academic Team for her 3.88 GPA.

For Geenen, the hardest part of being a senior in high school during this global pandemic is not being able to participate in the end of the school year activities. 

Geenen was looking forward to senior prom, senior brunch, senior sunrise and sunset and graduation, as well as other events that occur at the end of the school year.

Unfortunately, due to the ongoing pandemic everything that a high school senior usually experiences is cancelled.

If Mission Bay were to let the class of 2020 return a year after graduation to participate in prom, Geenen said she would definitely return. But, she doesn’t think it will happen. 

weighted setter ball
Jillian Geenen uses a weighted volleyball to stay in shape while stay-at-home orders have her away from the gym. Jillian Geenen photo

In the meantime, Geenen stays active and keeps training to become better at the sport, with a quarantine workout routine that changes daily. 

“I do running up hills. For endurance training, I have a bike. It’s a great neighborhood where I live, so I go on a lot of bike rides,” Geenen said. “I have a weighted setter ball, it helps with strength and flexibility and it helps with my skill, specifically.” 

Geenen also reviews films of herself playing volleyball to see where she can improve as well as does stretching to improve her flexibility.   

Geenen hopes the stay-at-home order ends before the volleyball season begins, and sports won’t remain on hold. City College has already announced classes will remain “primarily” online for the fall.

“I just really hope that doesn’t happen and that I can play volleyball at City,” she said.

Do you have a unique story to share about how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted your life? Let us know on social media @SDCityTimes or leave a comment below.