Student athletes across the state gave a cautiously optimistic cheer on Monday afternoon when it was announced that the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association approved a shortened spring season for all sports.
The MIAA Board of Directors held a two-hour phone conference, voting 12-0, with one abstention, to hold a shortened spring season to begin upon the planned reopening of schools on May 4, at which time teams will be able to begin practicing, with games to start on May 11.
Under the ruling, teams will be required to play a minimum of eight and a maximum of 12 games to qualify for post-season play, with a tournament format still to be determined by the MIAA’s tournament committee around April 9. Teams that don’t qualify will be allowed to play more than 12 games should they choose. Tournament play must wrap up by June 27.
The concern facing the board was running into end-of-year activities and events such as proms, graduations, school concerts, and the like.
While the news bolstered the spirits of student athletes across the state, including here on the Cape, it had a bittersweet edge to it since games would have started this week for most teams.
Monomoy boys lacrosse player and senior Connor Deveau said that while playing a shortened season is disappointing, he understands that the MIAA is looking out for the well-being of not only the student athletes and coaches, but also the fans. That said, Deveau is eager for the season’s start. The question is whether it will feel like a season.
“I think it’ll feel sort of like a season,” Deveau said. “We’re going to try to keep everybody’s spirits up. We’re going to treat it like a season and hopefully get something going for tournament.”
Deveau said the school closure and subsequent delay of the spring season have been challenging for student athletes as they’ve been required to conduct workouts at home, not knowing when or if the season would begin.
“It’s definitely been difficult. We don’t have access to any gyms or anything, nor do I want to go to one since there would probably be a lot of people there,” he said, adding that coaches have suggested ways for athletes to stay fit. “It’s eating right, running, shooting in the backyard. That’s pretty much all we can do. We can only hope that we’ve done it enough to benefit us in the season.”
Perhaps the most challenging part of the delay is missing out on time with teammates.
“We’re a group of brothers and are really close,” Deveau said. “We’re looking forward to the team dinners, team bonding, and definitely the lacrosse part. I’m just excited to get back to action and win games with my team. It is our senior season for a lot of us so we’re going to make the best of it.”
Making the best of the situation seems to be the mantra among Monomoy athletes. Kaitlyn and Alyssa Lyons are both seniors on the girls’ lacrosse team and have been looking forward to the start of the season for weeks. Monday’s announcement of a shortened season was a boost.
“It’s definitely some light at the end of the tunnel,” said Kaitlyn. “It’s hard missing a lot of milestones in our senior year but I’m glad we still have that to hold on to.”
Kaitlyn said that while it will be strange not having much of a pre-season, she won’t miss the rainy games typical of this time of year on Cape Cod. Like Deveau, she and her sister have been doing their own workouts at home, hoping it’s enough.
“It’s hard because it’s a lot of stuff on your own,” Kaitlyn said. “Working out and shooting, rather than all the team stuff. I think that’s really important and we’re lacking that this year.”
Alyssa Lyons agreed, noting that solo workouts are distinctly lacking, especially when it comes to a group sport.
“It’s been kind of challenging because when you’re with a team practicing, you push each other. When you’re by yourself, you just have to focus on the end goal and hope for the best,” she said. “I think with everyone together we’ll be able to make the most out of it.”
Monomoy baseball catcher and senior Sean Gould was thrilled with the MIAA decision, even if it meant a shortened season.
“I’m so happy for that,” he said. “I feel like it’ll still feel like a season. It won’t be as great, but our team is a family. As long as I’m with them it’ll feel like normal.”
Gould said what he’s most excited for, other than getting back behind the plate, is being with his teammates.
“Our team chemistry is off the charts,” he said. “We’re a family. I’m excited to get back to my family. And the fans. They love watching us play and we love playing for them. I’m really fortunate to be part of it and to be part of it for this last season.”
Gould echoed the sentiments of his fellow senior athletes regarding the challenges of trying to maintain his fitness during the school closure and sports delay.
“It’s really frustrating because we build so much momentum as a team, and so many places are closed, like gyms and the Dugout,” he said. “It’s about finding a new routine, a place to hit, a place to hone your skills.”
Gould hopes his team errs on the side of 12 games once the season starts.
“I think 12 is a good amount,” he said. “I feel like anything less than 10 isn’t ideal. But I’m excited. I’m ready for my farewell season. That’s what we all deserve as seniors, that sendoff. That farewell.”
Monomoy softball captain Mollie Charest said the season’s delay has been a struggle.
“Not being on the ball field is something that is very difficult for me,” she said. “Every school year begins with, ‘I can’t wait for softball season,’ and now it even hurts to say the words.”
Charest said that coach Stacy Yarnall has encouraged players to get outside and throw with family members, ideally while practicing social distancing, but even that has its limitations. Charest said what’s made it especially disappointing is that nothing compares to a senior season.
“I have been looking forward to my senior season since I watched my sister complete her senior year playing for Ms. Yarnall in 2013,” Charest said. “It seemed like one of the best years of softball in her life, and I got my hopes up.”
Charest has seen 10 seniors graduate during her time with the Sharks and has been hopeful for the 2020 season shared with fellow senior Julie Slade since eighth grade.
“I couldn’t wait for that Senior Night, hoping to see a tear roll down Ms. Yarnall’s cheek while I cry like a baby,” she said. “Ever since the moment that college softball was suspended, I knew there wasn’t much hope for our season. [When] they pushed off our season, and when it became very uncertain whether there would be a season, I broke down.”
Charest said she remembers feeling heartbroken, unable to respond to a flurry of text messages lamenting the delay.
“It felt as if everything was taken from me,” Charest said. “It was the true definition of heartbreak.”
With the announcement of a shortened season, Charest said the best thing she and her teammates can do is “hope for the best but expect the worst.”
“Yes, of course we feel cheated. It’s unfair to us, but there is nothing anyone can do about it,” she said. “At this point, having any kind of a season will be enough. I will cherish every moment spent with my team and will not take it for granted.”
As the MIAA works to determine the best tournament strategy, Charest remains hopeful.
“I believe that the Monomoy softball team had an amazing chance at the state title this year,” she said. “We could definitely make a run. But even just one last practice, one last game. That’s all us seniors need. One last time to walk on the field with our teammates. One last win. One last ‘good game.’ Just one last time. That’s all we want…all we need.”