The start of Andover High sports deemed “moderate risk” was paused, along with the rest of the Merrimack Valley Conference, by the league last week.
The MVC announced last Thursday that it was postponed games for boys and girls soccer, field hockey and girls volleyball for at least one week and has changed the structure of cross country meets due to a spike in COVID-19 cases in several member cities.
Methuen, Haverhill, North Andover and Lawrence, all members of the MVC, were designated as in the “red zone” last week due to the number of COVID cases. Andover was not listed.
Soccer, field hockey and volleyball were postponed because they are designated “moderate risk” sports by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association.
“We know that athletics is an important experience for our students and for our school communities as a whole,” said a press release from various MVC school superintendents. “As such, we are committed to providing opportunities for our student-athletes to participate in interscholastic competitions. However, we must also balance this commitment with our highest priority of keeping our students, staff, and community safe during the current health crisis.
“We are hopeful that we will be able to continue to have interscholastic competitions among our member schools this fall, and we urge the members of our communities to practice proper health protocols (mask wearing, physical distancing, etc.) so that our student-athletes can have the opportunity to compete.”
The MVC said in its release that it planned to reassess the situation on Oct. 7, when the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) releases its weekly COVID-19 Public Health Report.
Most teams were scheduled to open their regular seasons by playing games this weekend. Andover field hockey, boys soccer and girls soccer and volleyball were all set to play Lowell on Wednesday, Oct. 7.
“We understand the decisions are made to keep everyone safe,” said Andover field hockey coach Maureen Noone. “We’re obviously disappointed, but we will try to change practices to keep the girls motivated until we get a chance to play. With this group of players, I think we can adjust and make it a productive season.”
The fall season is scheduled to run until Nov. 20, when the winter season is set to begin.
“I’m glad they decided to let the teams keep practicing,” said Andover boys soccer coach Jim Saalfrank. “I know everyone is proceeding with caution and following safety protocols. But we really hope the players can have some semblance of a season. If we have to wait for games, we’ll wait.”
If sports cannot resume this fall, they would be moved to “Spring II” which is scheduled to play from Feb. 22 to April 25. “High risk” sports football and cheer along with girls swimming have already been moved to that season. But some coaches are concerned about the challenges the season, between winter and spring, will bring.
Golf and cross country — designated “low risk” sports — are being allowed to continue. But North Andover cross country coach Rick DelleChiaie explained that, instead of running against the opposing teams, the schools will run separately on the same course.
“One school will send out its top 10 runners, then three minutes later the next school will send out its top 10,” said DelleChiaie. “The competition is being radically altered. We can compete, but you really aren’t competing because you’re just running against your teammates for times. It’s better than nothing, and we are counting our blessings, but it takes the competitive nature right out of things. It’s just not the same.”
Follow David Willis on Twitter: @DWillisET.
GOLF STARTS HOT
While the rest of Andover High sports waited to start their seasons, the Golden Warrior golf team opened red hot.
Last Wednesday, Andover scored a 232 in its season-opener, beating Lowell (253) and Methuen (274) in a tri-meet. Leading the way were Cade Cedorchuk (35), Steve Ingram (38), Nick Ventura (40), Noah Farland (40) and Timmy Kobelski (40).
Last Thursday, the Golden Warriors tallied a 242 to top Central Catholic (279) and Tewksbury (262). Ingram (35), Ventura (40) and Noah Farland (40) led the way.