Zach and Kennedy Eschenberg planned to finish their BYU volleyball careers separately. Then the pandemic hit.

The married couple will instead play their final seasons at the same time.

(Photos courtesy of BYU Athletics) Kennedy Eschenberg, left, and Zach Eschenberg. Due to the pandemic and altered seasons, the married couple will complete their senior seasons for BYU volleyball at the same time.

Provo • Throughout Zach and Kennedy Eschenberg’s relationship, the couple had gotten into a routine of sorts. In the fall, women’s volleyball took priority, while men’s volleyball took priority in the spring.

But the pandemic threw a wrench into those schedules.

Originally, Zach expected to finish up his collegiate career last season, but had it suddenly come to an end as schools and conferences opted to shut down. Kennedy was going to wrap up her career this past fall, but the West Coast Conference decided to move the fall season over to the spring.

Now, the Cougar All-Americans will do something they never expected — they will play their final seasons at BYU at the same time.

The women opened their season on Tuesday, while the men start their season Feb. 4.

“Now it’s kind of funny that we’re going to be having our season at the same time,” Kennedy Eschenberg said. “That was weird, but every day we’re just so grateful to be able to play because you never know, could everything get canceled? … I think that just adds an added joy to playing.”

The Eschenbergs, who started dating in 2016 and were married in 2018, are expected to each play a major role on their respective teams.

In 2019, Kennedy recorded 195 kills out of 425 total attempts, along with 126 block assists, eight block solo and 18 digs. Kennedy was one of three Cougars who were voted onto the preseason All-WCC team. The 22-year-old middle blocker earned All-WCC First Team honors last season.

In the shortened 2020 season, Zach recorded 132 kills, 72 digs, 34 block assists and five assists. The Cougars had just suffered their first loss of the season (17-1) and were ranked No. 1 in the nation when the remainder of the season was canceled.

BYU is picking up where it left off, having been named the No. 1 team in the country in the 2021 NVA/AVCA Division I/II Preseason Poll, which was announced earlier this month.

With the added stress of the pandemic on top of the usual intensity of being a student athlete, the pair said they are grateful for a partner who understands the burdens they’re each going through.

“For me, it’s just so nice because even volleyball-wise, Zach knows how to help me,” Kennedy Eschenberg said. “It’s so nice to have a volleyball question and be able to ask him, and I feel like it helps. And then, it’s also just nice knowing — it’s all we know because we’ve always been together — but just having someone who understands the schedule and the demand.”

As student athletes, the pair also has to work around travel schedules, which will now have to be juggled together. Luckily for the Eschenbergs, it seems they’ll be able to watch a good amount of each other’s home matches.

The women play the first half of their schedule on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, while the men will have their matches on Thursdays and Saturdays or Fridays and Saturdays.

Zach, 25, appreciates his relationship with Kennedy for the level of understanding they each have for their respective collegiate careers, even if it means they don’t get to see each other for a few days.

“I think a big plus that maybe other people who, I’m sure it’s not all the time, but where one of them is a student athlete who’s traveling all the time and the other is a student who may be working or have a kid, just the fact that we’re able to understand the demands and the time commitment from being on the road and traveling,” Zach Eschenberg said. “We still have time to FaceTime each other all the time if we’re gone, but it doesn’t turn into a big ordeal that so-and-so is gone for three days. We’re able to make that work and still have fun and enjoy it.”

With all the events of the last year, the Eschenbergs will look to make the most of their respective seasons before moving on from BYU. Zach plans to go to dental school while Kennedy, an elementary education major, said she’s taking it day by day.

“Just the other day we were talking about how I think we’re seeing each other more than we should be, because we expected to not see each other much,” “... We know that once we start traveling we’ll see each other less, but I think it’s just kind of nice because we just expect that. And it’s also four months and we have a mutual understanding. We wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. It’s so fun to play volleyball and have our last season [together].”