Winter sports have gotten the green light at Monomoy and Nauset Regional High Schools, though Monomoy's season will see a bit of a delay due to the school's recent closure in the wake of new cases of COVID-19 among students.
Originally, winter sports were supposed to start with tryouts and practices on Dec. 14, but two positive cases at MRHS necessitated the closure of the school until after the holiday break. According to Monomoy Athletic Director Karen Guillemette, tryouts and practices for basketball and ice hockey, the only winter sports at MRHS, will begin Jan. 4, with games set to begin roughly two weeks later.
“I'm in the process of moving all the games back two weeks,” Guillemette said. “The first games won't be until Jan. 15.”
Guillemette said that what's been helpful is once-a-week meetings between athletic directors in the Cape and Islands League to discuss current and upcoming seasons.
“All of the ADs have been meeting once a week since March and that's been incredibly helpful,” Guillemette said. “We're all on the same page and can make decisions as the information gets to us.”
When MRHS needed to close, postponing the start of their 2020-2021 winter season, Guillemette said fellow athletic directors had no problem with rescheduling games.
“Everyone was very supportive and said to let them know what they can do to help,” she said. “It's just a bummer because it's valued practice time the athletes are missing, but I've pretty much rescheduled everything. As of right now we're not going to lose any games. It's just a more condensed season.”
Both basketball and ice hockey will be played with specific changes aimed at lessening the risks of close-contact sports, but of greater concern initially was where the Monomoy-Mashpee Monarchs boys varsity ice hockey team would play home games. With ice time at a premium at area rinks due to the pandemic and renovations being done at the Hyannis Youth and Community Center, finding a space for the Monarchs was a challenge.
“The boys are actually at Tony Kent this year,” Guillemette said. “We usually play out of the HYCC but that was kind of unknown as one of their rinks was being renovated.”
In the cases of both sports, the Cape and Islands League decided collectively that only home fans will be allowed at home games. At Monomoy games, only two fans per player will be allowed, and those fans must be on a predetermined list. Fortunately, home basketball games will be live streamed, and for the Monarchs, the Mashpee athletic department will be doing something similar, possibly utilizing a service called LiveBarn that provides broadcasts of youth and amateur sports. Guillemette recommends contacting rinks ahead of game time to find out fan requirements.
So what effect has this had on Monomoy's student athletes?
“As far as I know they're taking it in stride and happy to be playing,” Guillemette said. “I haven't talked with any of the kids since we went remote. I don't know if it's causing them any anxiety, but I have reassured parents that we're scheduled to start on Jan. 4. Hopefully if all goes well in the next couple weeks, we'll be ready to start.”
At Nauset, there will be a wealth of winter offerings, including boys and girls varsity and junior varsity basketball, boys varsity and junior varsity ice hockey, girls varsity ice hockey, and boys and girls varsity swimming and diving.
The girls varsity hockey team, the Cape Cod Furies, is a co-op team featuring eight players from Nauset, five from Monomoy, and one from Cape Tech; that player was granted a waiver to play despite the fact Cape Tech isn’t organizing its own team sports this winter (see below for more). The Furies are currently scheduled to host Falmouth on Jan. 6 in their season opener, though Nauset Athletic Director John Mattson said the team may not be ready for that game because Monomoy isn’t starting its winter sports until Jan. 4.
“Two days of practice might not be enough for girls hockey, so that game may end up being rescheduled,” Mattson said.
While the Warriors’ home basketball games will be played at the high school, hockey and swimming will hold home competitions off campus. The hockey teams will play at Charles Moore Arena in Orleans, and swimming and diving will compete at Willy’s Gym in Eastham. Spectators won’t be able to attend swimming and diving meets at Willy’s, though basketball and hockey players will each be given two spectator passes to distribute to family members to attend games. Spectators will be allowed to enter the building free of charge once they show their passes at the door. Similar to fall sports, spectators won’t be allowed to attend any away games throughout the winter.
There will be two fresh faces around Nauset’s athletic department this winter, as Drew Locke and Jenn Stevens are taking over coaching duties. Locke will lead the boys varsity hockey program after serving as a junior varsity coach for five years, while Stevens will serve as the swimming and diving coach in place of Justin Bohannon, who typically leads the program but is sitting out this year due to COVID-19.
Another key change for swimming and diving this year is that all of the Cape and Islands League teams will be competing in virtual meets. One effect of that announcement is Nauset won’t be able to compete in diving because Willy’s doesn’t have diving boards.
“Teams will have to hold the meet within one day of each other, and officials will be at each site to track scores and times and they will be compared to determine the winners,” Mattson said about swimming. “It’s a little bit different obviously, but we’re making it work.”
Mattson said the Cape and Islands League was pleased with the formula it executed during the fall, which saw teams play a league-only schedule before a league tournament took place at the end of the season. He said the plan is for the league to replicate the same formula this winter.
“We’re really following the fall model we had with the league-only games,” Mattson said. “I think the fall went extremely well. Once we started the fall season and the kids got used to the safety protocols and the modifications, everything else was normal. It was the most normal thing these kids have had in a long time. It brought a lot of happiness, not only to them, but their coaches and their families, too.”
While Monomoy and Nauset will both offer winter seasons, at Cape Tech they're following the decisions of the Mayflower League and forgoing winter sports. Cape Tech Athletic Director Alan Harrison said the decision involved numerous factors, with rising COVID-19 numbers at the top of the list.
“We're still in a COVID peak at this point,” Harrison said. “Also, our school day is not a typical day. It's a split day with vocational classes from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m, and academics from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and there is still a group of students that are learning from home. Putting all of that together to try and put a sports program together, it's at best difficult.”
Harrison said one of the challenges to basketball games is that when students in the earlier part of the school day wrap up, they're expected to leave the building. Since practices wouldn't start until well after 3 p.m., it would be difficult to get everyone back to school in a timely and safe way, especially since Cape Tech students come from towns as far away as Provincetown and Barnstable.
“Students are leaving, going back to their towns,” Harrison said. “It's a difficult thing to put together.”
Harrison said that in making the decision not to have winter sports, the school took guidance from the Mayflower League, joining a number of other schools in the decision to cancel the winter season, including Upper Cape Tech and Old Colony.
“Our school made the decision but it falls in line with the similar decisions that other vocational schools have made,” Harrison said, adding that with competitor schools not holding winter sports, creating a worthwhile schedule would have been nearly impossible, and was further impacted negatively by the decision to have leagues play only teams within the league.
“The majority of the schools have made the same decisions,” Harrison said. “Tri-County. Bristol and Norfolk. If what once was a 20-game schedule, which was going to be reduced anyway, is even less, the ability to just pick up games locally with Cape and Islands League members is not doable because they're restricted to their league.”
Harrison said that while he feels badly for the students, especially the seniors, he's comfortable with the decision.
“I think it was the right decision to make,” he said. “I've been in athletics, college and high school, for more than 30 years. Every decision that needs to be made here goes against what I believe in as an athletic coach and administrator. But it's the right decision at this point.”
Harrison said he thinks the students understand.
“I think they're taking it in stride,” he said. “Everybody wants to play, but when it's explained...they get it.”
Whether the school will offer some sort of intramural sports remains to be seen, but Harrison said a decision won't be made until after the holiday break. As the winter season progresses, Harrison said the Mayflower League will also pay close attention to COVID-19 numbers regarding the Fall II season.
“We would be looking at sports for Fall II in the coming months,” Harrison said. “That's a decision that gets made closer to Fall II.”