Waiting on Fall Season II

Massena’s volleyball team competes against Burnt Lake-Ballston Spa in a state regional match in November 2018. Watertown Daily Times

Six weeks ago, high school girls volleyball received permission from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to start practicing for the 2020 NAC fall season on Sept. 21.

Since it was considered a high-risk sport by the state’s current coronavirus health and safety standards, teams would be allowed to practice but would not be permitted to play competitive matches until late October at the earliest.

Two weeks after the governor’s original statement, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association announced the creation of Fall Sports Season II for the high risk sports that are traditionally played in the autumn months. The season is scheduled to start March 1 and run until mid-April without interrupting the end of the winter and start of the spring sports seasons.

Meanwhile, players involved with low-risk sports such as cross country and soccer have begun practicing for the majority of the schools fielding teams in Section 10.

“It’s been a roller coaster. There really is no road map for these times,” said Massena varsity volleyball coach Maggie Farrell. “It’s kind of sad and I know the kids and the parents were upset when they moved our season. It’s especially hard on the kids when they see their peers in other sports being able to practice and they’re not.”

“I’m just hoping that we’ll having something for them in the spring. I have nine seniors on the team this year and for them to have no closure would be even tougher for all of us,” she added. “Even if we weren’t going to be able to have matches, it would have been nice to be able to start practice. At least it would have given us something volleyball-related to do and it would have given us a chance to get back together as a team.”

Potsdam coach Angelina Converse echoed those sentiments.

“For us to be able to only have practices would have been better than nothing,” she said. “I have an extremely young team this year and they really haven’t had much opportunity to get out and work on their skills.”

“Just seeing the girls and getting together with them would have been nice, too,” she added. “They are like a whole other family to me.”

Although the sport of volleyball involves little or no close physical contact during matches, the main reason it has been listed as high risk by the state has to do with how often the ball is touched by various players. NYSPHSAA has yet to announce specific COVID-19 safety measures for staging volleyball matches beyond the wearing of masks at all times and maintaining safe social distancing for players and coaches along with sideline.

“The big thing I know of has to do with the volleyball itself,” Farrell said. “In the past, whenever we had a match, both teams used the same balls for warm-ups so I think teams will have to start bringing their own. I’ve also been told that during matches, there’s going to be sanitizing stations for players to wash their hands and they’re going to have to be a way to have balls sanitized between points.”

According to Converse, other changes on the court would be related to social distancing.

“From what I’ve been able to find out, there won’t be anymore coin tosses and teams won’t be meeting in the middle before matches. During matches, players won’t be allowed to huddle together after points or do things like high-fives,” she said. “There are just so many things that are still up in the air but I think everything we’ll see in the guidelines that we expect to get from the state will be totally doable.”

Both coaches remain hopeful that Fall Sport Season II will take place and their teams will get a chance to work on their volleyball skills, whether they are allowed to play matches or not. For Farrell, the real potential of not being able to return to the court in the late-winter would be an obvious setback.

“Volleyball is not a huge sport in our section but the coaches and the players have worked really hard to raise our level of competition,” she said. “I worry that if we aren’t able to have any sort of a season, kids are going to start losing interest.”

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