Looking back to August, when the CIAC announced a plan for this fall that included a November “postseason experience,” CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini said this week that he was sure they could get the season started in October.
“We were confident we’d get a significant number of regular-season games in,” Lungarini said. “We weren’t sure about the last couple of weeks, what things would look like.”
Those last couple of weeks are here, and they’ve been doozies. The state’s COVID-19 metrics have shot up. Hospitalizations in the state due to the pandemic doubled from Oct. 28 to Thursday, up to 617. Almost 9,000 tests came back positive in a week, over 10% of all the cases the state has reported since March.
Postponing sporting events because a team was in quarantine or a school had gone to remote learning was not uncommon during October. It has turned the November postseason into a race to get everything done.
“The last 10 days, two weeks, it feels like we’re walking a tightrope,” Masuk Athletic Director John DeGennaro said.
And some of the decisions were gut-wrenching.
An incomplete list: Several SCC teams opted out of tournaments before the postseason began. Over the weekend, Immaculate withdrew from the SWC girls soccer tournament, and top-seeded Pomperaug’s varsity pulled out, sending the junior varsity to play instead. The NVL canceled its playoffs on Monday and two teams, Westhill boys soccer and New Canaan field hockey, bowed out of FCIAC tournaments. Meanwhile, Darien went to remote learning for a day, so FCIAC games in three girls sports were postponed a day Tuesday.
Masuk had to pull out of the SWC boys soccer tournament late that night, then had its field hockey team withdraw from the SWC tournament on Thursday. Bunnell boys and girls soccer also withdrew because the school went remote.
The SWC had hoped to play championship games, but settled for regional titles instead after a recommendation from the CIAC. Then the withdrawals in boys soccer let Barlow and Weston, the top two seeds, reach Saturday’s South Division final without playing a game.
“But they don’t want that. They just want to play,” said Mark Berkowitz, Weston’s athletic director and a co-commissioner of the SWC. “Those opportunities keep getting taken away. That’s no one’s fault, but it’s hard.”
Foran head coach Rick DiStefano watched his boys soccer team play for the SCC Division C title via livestream Friday. DiStefano and his two assistants, due to established safety protocols, went into quarantine for having had contact with someone who tested positive to the virus.
“I’ve coached at Foran for 15 years. We won the division title this year and played for the playoff title. It was gut-wrenching for me not to be with them,” DiStefano said.
The Shoreline volleyball tournament was played without Morgan and Valley Regional, with both schools going to remote learning recently. Valley was 9-1 in the regular season.
Torrington athletic director Mike McKenna, who’s also the NVL’s president, hated to see the postseason lost for the league’s athletes. Safety came first, he said, and there were concerns about logistics and tournament integrity as schools went into remote learning.
“Case in point for what we were thinking: I was scheduled to host finals for girls soccer, boys soccer and volleyball for our Iron Division,” McKenna said Thursday. “Today, because we had a positive test within the school, we were put on distance learning. I found out at noon today. We would’ve been scrambling to try to find another school able to take those games. That’s what we were kind of thinking coming in: What if?”
He said Torrington’s boys soccer team had a potential exposure to the coronavirus last week and was put into quarantine.
“Had they won,” he said, “then they would’ve been out of the tournament. OK, so a team goes right to the finals. Those are the little kinds of things. If it weren’t for the safety thing involved, you’d say, OK, we’ll figure something out. But on top is safety. That’s the real reason.”
In some cases, the logistics worked, if barely. Shelton announced on Tuesday that its schools were going full remote until January. It also decided that its fall high school teams would finish out the week.
“I give the credit to our superintendent, our board of education and our reopening committee,” Shelton athletic director John Niski said.
“It’s really only a couple of days. In Shelton, our reason for making the decision to go full-distance was largely based on staffing issues; it wasn’t because of spread on school athletic teams.
Shelton won the SCC Division A girls soccer championship on Thursday. The girls volleyball team fell to Amity in the Division A title match on Friday.
“It was a great decision for all the student-athletes to finish out their last couple of days,” Niski said.
“We’re excited about that.”
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