by Bella Ishanyan, Sports Contributor & Clare Tourtelotte, Sports Reporter
photo by Nora Ito
Field Hockey [2-0-8]
Field hockey teams were forced to make a drastic change to this year: going from 11 players to just seven. Captain senior Maya Kim said that change was responsible for more than just a shift in tactics.
“It’s a lot more. It’s not just running, but it’s a new kind of setup to get used to,” she said. “There’s a lot of other things; obviously, running with a mask is a little more tiring than running without one.”
In the absence of traditional, in-person team bonding activities, junior Elle McDonald said that team captains maintained close communication with the team.
“They always text us [to] check in on us to make sure we’re all doing okay,” she said.
Kim said that she missed the small moments of connection with her teammates.
“When someone scores a goal, for example, you can’t all run up and do a group hug or just simple things,” she said. “At the end of a game, usually you’ll go up and high five everyone on the other team, and obviously we can’t do that anymore.
Kim said, however, that the team tried to maintain some old traditions.
“We just had our senior game, so we did speeches and gave gifts,” she said. “We still try to keep up traditions as best we can … I think everyone on the team is just doing a really good job of building the sense of community, all together.”
The golf team saw far fewer COVID- 19-induced changes to their seasons than other sports teams, as captain senior Madalin Small said that the structure of golf was conducive to social distancing.
“We’re already six feet apart pretty much at all times, so that definitely helps a lot,” she said.
With school ending at 3:55 p.m. this year, however, the golf team faced unique challenges. Not only was golf practice pushed later, sunlight ran out earlier.
“We actually can’t start practice until about 4:30, and the sun sets at 6, so practice has been a struggle,” Small said. “For matches, we’re fine because we get out from school early.”
Despite having less time to spend around one another, Small said the team tried to foster community however they could.
“We’ve been trying to set up team dinners and stuff like that to make everyone feel more connected,” Small said. “It’s really tough with all the strict guidelines, but doing stuff outside of practice, as a team, [helps].”
Like most student-athletes, however, Small said that she’s glad to have the opportunity to play her favorite sport.
“I’ve really enjoyed it. I love my team,” she said. “It’s good to at least be able to have a season, so I’m grateful for that. It’s been weird, but I’ll take what I can.”
Girls Cross Country [1-3]
This year, the girls cross country team finished third in the District County League Large Championship.
Captain senior Solomiya Kotyk ran cross country for all four years of high school, and she said that this season featured unprecedented challenges.
“At the beginning of our season, it was super hard to socially distance,” she said. “Everyone’s just super used to being super close; we’re always hugging and spending time close together.”
In terms of the races themselves, Kotyk said that the change from every runner beginning at the same time added extra psychological strain to what had been a mostly physical activity.
“We start in waves of five people from each team,” she said. “That makes it more of a mental race instead of a competitive one, because you aren’t racing against that many people, and sometimes you might be running without anyone nearby.”
Despite the tangible changes from prior years, Kotyk said the team made the best of an unusual situation by maintaining connections.
“I’m just really grateful that we’re having this season because it’s the one sense of normalcy we have,” she said. “It’s just great to see all the girls.”
Boys Cross Country [3-1]
The boys cross country team was the number one team in the state and also had five representatives among the top eight finishers in the District County League Cross Country Large Championship.
With 70 runners, however, the boys cross country team was the largest team competing this season, which captain senior Will Lavey said made social distancing all the more difficult.
“It’s pretty hard to tell them they can’t stand right next to each other all the time, and there are a lot of constant reminders like, ‘You guys need to space yourself,’” he said. “When kids come in, and they’re just talking to their friends, like they’ve been doing for the first 15, 16 years of their life. It’s hard to kind of rewire the brain to stay away from people.”
Like the girls team, the boys team raced in waves of runners starting at staggered times.
In spite of structurally different races, Lavey said that the team’s preparation remained mostly the same.
“The only difference in meets is really that they’re doing wave starts,” he said. “That hasn’t really changed the way we’re preparing ourselves so much.”
However, early on in the season, Lavey said that the team’s energy took a hit with the absence of being able to freely interact with teammates.
“For a lot of kids, it’s really tough because we don’t have the pre-practice meetings where everyone is just goofing around in the classroom or in the locker room,” he said. “We don’t have that random camaraderie that just is there all the time.”
At the end of the day, Lavey said he tried to keep things in perspective and appreciate the team’s accomplishments.
“Overall, we are managing well,” he said. “It’s still the same team.”
Girls Soccer [9-1-2]
Soccer typically has just one built-in break in play at halftime. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, MIAA regulations enforced breaks every 20 minutes. Other safety procedures included the addition of kick-ins —a more sanitary replacement for throw-ins — and a ban on headers and all other contact.
Captain senior Lottie McLeod said that, by slowing the pace of gameplay, these modifications made for a lack of continuity.
“Tactically, the game is very different now. It’s a lot more start and stop; there’s way less flow to the game,” she said. “It’s for safety, so we have to adapt.”
McLeod said that coaches and players were working together to adhere to the new safety protocols.
“[The coaches] set up cones before practice for where we have to put our bags so that we’re socially distanced,” she said. “We’re reminded at water breaks to social distance, and obviously, everyone wears masks to practice.”
Despite new guidelines and gameplay changes, the team didn’t lose its stride, McLeod said.
“Last year, our games against the large District County League teams were much closer, whereas this year we’ve created a little bit more of a separation in certain games,” she said. “We’ve all been working very hard, so I think we’re all very proud of the effort and the outcome we’ve had so far.”
Boys Soccer [3-5-2]
This season, the boys soccer team faced not only new COVID-19 protocols, but a new coach and largely new team.
Captain senior Ethan Levin said that even after graduating 12 seniors last year and forming relationships with new coach Floyd Butler, the team adjusted well to coronavirus-necessitated changes.
“Then to throw, on top of that, all the COVID-19 guidelines and the new COVID-19 rules,” he said, “I feel like the team has come together and just pushed through it all, and I’m really happy with how we’ve been doing.”
Butler said he focused on getting to know the team and implementing necessary changes.
“Everything really has changed from the previous year, and it’s not just because of COVID-19, it’s because I’ve stepped in, and I’ve brought with me a new way of doing things,” he said. “All the boys are adjusting to not only me but all of these new rules and guidelines, so I want to give them a ton of credit because I think they’re doing a really wonderful job of it.”
Butler said he saw the team, like him, enjoying their time together.
“We’re really just happy to be able to be out and play, he said. “Yes, it’s challenging. Yes, it’s been a bit of a learning curve … But the simple fact that we’re out and playing and competing and training has been making it worthwhile.”