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Cole family adjusts to new normal with backyard volleyball

Hofstra athletic director Rick Cole spoke with Newsday's Gregg Sarra on Skype about how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the Hofstra community, as well as his personal life and the lives of his three children: Mackenzie, a volleyball player at Duke; Taylor, a volleyball player at Iona; and Trey, a volleyball player at Connetquot High School and a Pepperdine commit. Credit: Newsday / Nick Klopsis

There’s a volleyball serving machine in the backyard of Hofstra athletic director Rick Cole’s house.

With daughters Taylor and Mackenzie, who play volleyball for Iona and Duke, respectively, and son Trey, the 2019 Newsday boys volleyball player of the year, all home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Coles have been doing their best to acclimate to backyard workouts and online classes while also looking for the silver lining.

“[The serving machine has] been fun to play with and mess around with these guys," Mackenzie Cole, a sophomore defensive specialist/libero, told Newsday over Skype on Monday. “Even for just working out and lifting and running, it’s easier to be motivated when you have two other Division I athletes in the house that are also on the same page as you.”

There’s also some friendly competition among the siblings.

“They try to keep up,” said Trey, who graduated early from Connetquot High School and is taking online classes at Hofstra. He’ll head to Pepperdine in the fall.

Mackenzie and Taylor have stayed in touch with their teammates and coaches.

“Obviously, we can’t do exactly the same as we would at school,” said Taylor, a junior defensive specialist/libero for the Gaels. “We’re also trying to work on, through Zoom and group chats and team-bonding activities, growing our culture and staying together as a team because that’s something we really prioritize even if we have to do it remotely.”

The road back home hasn’t always been easy.

After finding out that she’d have to leave school, Mackenzie met Rick at Elon University, where the Hofstra women’s basketball team was playing. The two drove back to Duke and, as Rick recalled, “We said, ‘Pack what you can in those two bags,’ and we flew out.”

At Iona in New Rochelle, one of the hardest-hit areas during the pandemic, Taylor said she watched the National Guard move in as she moved out.

While they continue to settle into this new schedule and a few more backyard challenges, the Coles are thankful for the little things and the chance to be together.

“During this craziness and newness,” Rick said, “we’re really trying to look for the good and enjoy the moments that we have.”

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