MIAA Cancels Spring Sports Season In Keeping With School Closures
By: Kat Szmit
Topics: School Sports , Monomoy Regional High School , Cape Cod Tech , Sports , Softball , Baseball , Tennis , Track/Field , Lacrosse , Golf , Nauset Regional High School
Shortly after Governor Charlie Baker announced on April 21 that schools across the state would remain closed through the end of the academic year, Monomoy baseball catcher Sean Gould drove to Whitehouse Field, crouched down behind home plate, and held his arm out as if prepping for one more catch.
It’s a catch that won’t be coming. On April 24, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) voted unanimously to cancel the spring season, which was set to begin on May 4.
“Today’s decision by the MIAA board of directors was difficult, disappointing, and one that was deferred for several weeks as association staff, association members from the tournament management committee (TMC), and the board worked aggressively to construct optional structures to save the opportunity for our MIAA 80,000 student-athletes to enjoy a spring season,” read a portion of the message on the MIAA website.
Though many saw the decision coming, the news was still painful. Nauset baseball coach Kevin Curtin said he spoke with his team about the decision through video, his seniors understandably heartbroken.
“The entire coaching staff shared our belief in them as a team and we acknowledged the disappointment but tried to offer some perspective at the same time,” Curtin said. “We were very excited about the season. We felt we had some really good pitching led by Christopher Beach (senior) and Kurt Thomas (junior) as well as Tyler Ritchie (senior) and Deklan Heinz (senior). We had some great senior athletes like Henry Blanchard, Trevor Dash and Jackson Yelle that would have allowed us to really compete for a title.”
Monomoy baseball head coach Steve Porter said the news knocked the wind out of him. Grateful to MRHS athletic director Karen Guillemette for keeping coaches updated and accepting of the decision given the severity of the coronavirus, Porter said it’s still difficult to wrap his head around.
“It’s a whirlwind of emotions,” he said. “I am in full support of keeping the kids safe [and] appreciate the steps the government and local schools have done in making sure safety is put first. However, my heart breaks for all the athletes who train for months to be ready for their prospective seasons.”
Porter said he’s especially sad for his seniors, Gould, Joe Cottle, Jamie Routhier, Brandon Willis, Josh Poitras, Drew Edson, and Joe DeMango.
“My first year coaching high school baseball was this group’s first year in the high school as well,” Porter said. “Losing their final high school season is just such a gut punch. I owe a lot to every one of them and the impact they have had on me and the program will be everlasting. As a coach you want to say the perfect thing to all your players, the right thing to make them all feel better, but in reality, there is not a perfect response.”
Porter said he intends to find a meaningful way to honor his seniors but isn’t sure yet what that might be.
“Without knowing when we can all see each other together again, it’s hard to come up with more concrete plans until there is more certainty,” Porter said.
When Monomoy softball coach Stacy Yarnall received the news, she penned a letter to her two seniors, Mollie Charest and Julie Slade.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this in my life,” she said. “My emotions are all over the place and my heart is broken for my two senior girls.”
Yarnall said this was supposed to be their season, the season they would crush it and advance farther in the playoffs than before, possibly all the way to a South Sectional title.
“But honestly, I don’t care about the championships or the league titles, I just wanted to see you play in one last game,” she told her seniors. “You have been with me for five years, years filled with hard work, commitment, and most importantly fun! You don’t deserve to have your season taken from you like this... it’s just not fair. I can’t wait until I can see you again and give you both the biggest hug and tell you how proud I am to be your coach. Most of all I’ll miss watching you play the game that you both love so much.”
Harold Pini, head coach of Nauset girls softball, said he was looking forward to a final season with seniors Olivia Fitzgerald, Mia Caldwell and Toni Young.
“I first met all three in 2016 in the fall after my first year of coaching at NRHS. They all attended the softball clinics we started the same year,” Pini said. “We started the clinics to restore a program that needed to be rebuilt from the ground up, having won 3-4 games total in the prior three seasons.”
Pini noted that all three of his seniors became All Stars in the Atlantic Coast League and helped to bring the program back to a competitive level.
“Personally, after spending so much time with all three and having the season canceled is emotionally challenging,” Pini said. “Needless to say, their skills and leadership, along with the many hours they spent helping out at the clinics and at fund raisers for the booster club, will be missed.”
Pini added that he has concerns about the future of softball on the Lower Cape, given the decline of the sport in recent years.
“Everything about next year is going to be in question for some time, including the possibility of the clinics being canceled, whether we will play a season next spring,” Pini said. “It would be unfortunate because fast-pitch softball is wildly popular not only in Massachusetts but across the country and beyond.”
Nauset track coach Moira Nobili said the cancellation has been tough.
“Most of the seniors I’ve had for four years, some of them for almost 12 seasons,” she said. “So not being able to really say goodbye to them is really, really hard.”
Nobili said that many of her spring athletes also competed in winter track, determined to break records and personal best times this season.
“Winter is getting ready for spring, and now they don’t have it,” Nobili said. “For some of them, they won’t be competing in college, so this was their last chance.”
Nobili offered well wishes to Abby Farrell, who will be competing at the University of New Hampshire, and said that Rebekah Pranga had an amazing winter season, Kara Moore was looking forward to competing this spring. Ben Ellis was trying to set a record, while Kieran Norton, who made it to All-States in the winter, was looking to expand on his success, and Tyler Hutchinson, Shavar Champagnie, Thomas Harwood, and Cristian Augat were aiming to improve their performances.
“It’s a family,” Nobili said. “I miss them, and I think they miss the camaraderie.”
Monomoy girls lacrosse coach Jenn Peterson was also saddened by the news.
“I am absolutely heartbroken for my seniors,” she said. “This was the group that began this program as freshmen and has come such a long way.”
She lauded them for not only starting the program, but also making the tournament twice, once earning a high enough seed to host a home game.
“It is such a talented group with great leadership,” Peterson said, adding that she wrote to her players that she wished there were words that would make it better somehow. “I don’t believe anything could compare to the season we would have had. Rarely does someone have the chance to coach a group of seniors that have the total package. The combination of talent, leadership, dedication, love for the game, positive attitudes, and willingness to do what is best for the team will never be duplicated.”
Heather Stevens, head coach of Nauset girls lacrosse, said the spring cancellation was a blow for her, as well.
“What disappoints me most is that the seniors were not able to participate in their last year of sports,” she said. “I have had most of them for four years and I feel as though they were ready to really shine. Connor Boucher would have been an amazing goalie and Madelyn Fleming, Bella White, and Kay McNamara were ready to lead as captains. Emily Frazier, Emily Sanders, and Paisley Gavin are all solid players that were ready to go. They all have matured over the years and I will miss them as people and as athletes.”