Greg Luck was supposed to be celebrating the end of classes and prepping for his commencement ceremony after four years at Princeton University and reminiscing about another memorable season as a member of the men’s volleyball team.
Unfortunately for Luck, and seniors in high schools and universities throughout the nation, the year is unforgettable for unprecedented reasons with the cancellation of the spring sports season and graduation because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was supposed to have graduation June 3,” Luck lamented. “There isn’t much we can do. It’s really unfortunate because you’re in a situation you can’t control.”
A humbled Luck laments the memories that did not come to fruition, most notably his senior season as captain of the Tigers volleyball program. His squad was 9-6 this season prior to the Ivy League’s cancelation of spring sports on March 11. The NCAA nixed the men’s and women’s postseason basketball tournaments as well as the spring season the following day.
“I heard the news when we came back from a tough weekend losing to our state rival,” Luck recalled. “We came back Monday, and that’s when we first heard rumors of classes possibly being canceled. I didn’t really think of having sports canceled.”
As concerns over the novel coronavirus grew, organizations such as the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League announced the postponement of its seasons. The snowball effect eventually made its way to schools and athletics, turning Luck’s senior season upside down.
“That was the biggest surprise,” he said. “We didn’t think the coronavirus was such a pressing issue to cancel the season during that time. When the decision came down, we heard it from our coach. It was pretty disheartening because as a senior, it is tough forego your final year.”
It was especially difficult for Luck and his teammates as they were second in a competitive Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association and ranked No. 12 in the NCAA Division I and II AVCA coaches poll. The Tigers had recorded big victories over UCLA, George Mason and Harvard. Their final match was a 3-0 defeat at home against in-state rival New Jersey Institute of Technology.
The group had high hopes of making a solid run in the NCAA postseason tournament.
“We knew we had talent,” Luck stated. “We had two guys injured and we were waiting for them to get back so we could get back to full strength and peak at the right time. That was our goal, but it was just tough to hear our season was canceled. We talked to the younger guys and the overall message was to be grateful for the time we had and grateful that the Ivy League and NCAA cared enough for its athletes to make such a difficult decision.
“It was a mixture of disheartening and comforting the young guys, and reminiscing of the good days with the older guys, as well as the days that were taken away from us.”
Despite the shortened season, Luck still earned All-EIVA honors for a second consecutive year after finishing third in the conference with 1.04 blocks per set. He also recorded 65 kills and a .443 hitting percentage, 35 digs, 11 aces and seven assists. He takes solace in the recognition and achievements with the team.
“One of my most memorable moments was where we won the EIVA for the first time [in 2019],” he said. “We got to host in the playoffs and hosted Penn State. I made a big block. I will always remember that, also as a team coming out to L.A. for the final six and taking on Pepperdine. We got bounced by them earlier in the year and they had a bunch of big-time players. We went out and scrappy Princeton almost took that match. It was probably the most memorable game being in that arena and having NCAA patches on. It was a very unique experience.”
Luck was no stranger to success as he was instrumental to the South Pasadena High School boys’ volleyball team’s resurgence. He, along with his twin brother Maxwell, helped the Tigers claim the Rio Hondo League title four consecutive years and two CIF Southern Section championships (2013, 2014), a feat no other team had accomplished in the history of the program.
It took time to transition to the collegiate level but the former All-CIF standout quickly adjusted and helped turn around men’s volleyball at Princeton.
“I didn’t lose much in high school. I probably lost as many games in high school as I did my first year at Princeton,” Luck said. “The biggest difference for me was the work you put in. In college, there’s a lot more self-reflection, looking at films and figuring out what went wrong. My mentality changed for the better every day. I was more focused on the process instead of the outcome, which is different from high school when my mentality was to win every game, no matter how.”
That mentality stuck with Luck as he trusts the current decisions made by the university and moves on to the next phase in his life — the workforce. He will be working as a mechanical engineer for a company in North Hollywood.
“You just have to make the best of it. Not seeing classmates is a bummer, but I got to spend time with my family,” he said. “I also am entering a job, and I’m excited.”