The late Tom Petty said it best when he sang “The waiting is the hardest part.”
For high school spring sports players and coaches throughout Massachusetts, that lyric rings especially true after the 2020 spring sports season was canceled due to COVID-19.
“I think I speak for all of the coaches — not only at Monomoy but everywhere — when I say that we’re thankful to have a season, especially after last year,” Monomoy boys lacrosse coach John Kent said. “It’s not going to be as many games as usual, but we’re thankful for what we have.”
The spring season will serve as the fourth and final season for this year's high school sports. Due to an uptick of COVID-19 cases in the fall, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association created a “Fall II” season to give schools an opportunity to roll over their fall sports until March and April.
All of the seasons thus far — fall, winter, Fall II — have included condensed schedules and no state tournaments, although some leagues, including the Cape and Islands League, still held weeklong postseason tournaments.
That will change for spring sports, however, as the MIAA’s board of directors approved a full state tournament for the upcoming season. How the state tournament might look is a fluid situation, though, as some schools or teams may ultimately decide to opt out of the postseason tournament, which is expected to last through the end of June and maybe even spill into July, depending on how many teams are interested.
“I know that at Cape Tech, being a technical school, a lot of our kids are looking to work,” said longtime Cape Tech baseball coach Chuck Myrbeck. “I’ve had many players over the years who are on co-op and have had to make deals with their bosses to leave for games and practices. By the end of June, some of them might be working full time. We’ll have to see what happens, but the tournament is something to look forward to.”
Other programs, such as Nauset girls lacrosse, have seen some players who previously played decide to opt out. Head coach Heather Stevens said the Warriors were primed for a big season with about 17 or 18 seniors expected to return, but now she’s only expecting about eight seniors to play as others chose not to for various reasons.
“A lot actually made the decision, COVID or not, to not play this season,” Stevens said. “That was a little bit shocking. I didn’t realize so many would make that decision — whether it’s having to work for college or COVID related — but that was quite a blow for my expected senior numbers.”
When asked about last year’s cancellation, all of the coaches noted they were disappointed for their seniors who missed out on one last season of action.
“We had 12 seniors last year who unfortunately lost their last season,” Kent said. “Our top four attackmen all graduated, our goalie graduated and a few of our midfielders did, too. We’ll have a younger team this year, but we’re a talented team and we should compete.”
At Cape Tech, Myrbeck has heard about other programs seeing an influx of underclassmen try out for Fall II sports — a trend he hopes continues during the spring.
“I’m hearing a lot of good things about big numbers of kids going out for the Fall II sports and I’m hearing that there’s a lot of enthusiasm with the freshmen and sophomore classes,” he said. “Naturally, I’m hoping some of those kids will be interested in baseball.”
Although there are details to be ironed out about how the spring state tournament will look, Stevens said she’s hopeful her squad will have a chance to extend its season after missing out on last year.
“We’re going to have a younger team that hasn’t experienced that yet, so I’d love for them to have an opportunity to since they did miss out last year,” she said. “I’m hoping that we’re able to make it to the tournament so they can have that experience.”
Email Brad Joyal at firstname.lastname@example.org