COVID-19 measures put Mac sports on hold

Unclear when (or if) girls soccer playoff run, baseball, softball district play will resume

Originally%2C+varsity+baseball+coach+was+going+to+mow+the+softball+field+then+head+to+the+Leander+ISD+Tournament+with+his+baseball+team%2C+but+instead+he+spent+Friday+prepping+the+locker+room+in+the+field+house+for+the+deep+clean+originally+scheduled+for+spring+break.+Photo+by+Dave+Winter.

Dave Winter

Originally, varsity baseball coach was going to mow the softball field then head to the Leander ISD Tournament with his baseball team, but instead he spent Friday prepping the locker room in the field house for the deep clean originally scheduled for spring break. Photo by Dave Winter.

Grace Nugent, staff reporter

The coronavirus pandemic has left sports fans around the world without the NBA, the NHL, March Madness, MLB spring training, professional golf, tennis and international soccer.

The disruption to spring sports has also been felt locally as the University Interscholastic League announced that it was cancelling or postponing all sporting events through March 29.

 

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As a result, the remainder of the boys basketball state tournament has been suspended until further notice.

“After much consultation with government and health officials, we have made the difficult decision to postpone the remainder of the UIL State Basketball Tournament,” UIL Executive Director Dr. Charles Breithaupt wrote. “Our No. 1 priority remains the well-being of our student-athletes and spectators and we are taking every possible precaution to keep them safe.”

I’m seeing how people are acting, and it’s a little concerning because it’s like should I be acting like that, too?”

— senior soccer player Cynthia Maldonado

While the basketball tournament was underway, the cancellation did not affect McCallum athletes directly as their season had ended. The cancellations have, however, directly impacted the girls soccer team, which was preparing for its state playoff run and the baseball and softball teams whose season was just about to kick into the heart of the district season.

The girls soccer team was to begin the playoff on March 23, but that start date was pushed back to April 11 (for now) and therefore all other games will be pushed back. It is unclear at this time how Mayor Steve Adler’s Saturday order banning all city and county gatherings of more than 250 people will impact the UIL state playoffs.

“I do think it’s a smart move,” senior Lady Knights soccer captain Cynthia Maldonado said of the postponement. The coronavirus “is spreading fast right now and we should take precautions just as long as we get to still play safely and healthy. I’m good with their decisions. It’s crazy to see the grocery stores going out of stock, and I didn’t think it was going to be bad at first, but now I’m seeing how people are acting, and it’s a little concerning because it’s like should I be acting like that, too?”

The district has taken action in accordance with the UIL ban on sporting events through March 30.

AISD sent an email to all coaches and athletic staff of schools at 12:55 Friday saying that all games and practices are hereby suspended at least until after spring break because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The UIL announcement will halt games of UIL-sanctioned sports such as baseball, softball, tennis, track and field and golf. Other non UIL-sanctioned events such as Ultimate Frisbee and lacrosse have also been postponed. Despite AISD’s cancellations of practices, according to the The Austin American-Statesman, as of Friday, other neighboring school districts such as Round Rock and Pfugerville were still able to practice.

I can understand both sides of it, but going as far as to cancel school and school activities is annoying and really inconvenient.”

— senior softball player Janael Copeland

After winning its first two games at the Leander ISD tournament on Thursday, the Knights varsity baseball team was scheduled to play the rest of their Leander tournament but with AISD and UIL’s new policy, the team had to pull out of its games on Friday and Saturday against Elgin, Vista Ridge and Rouse.

“I’m sad the games were cancelled,” sophomore baseball player Diego Barraz said. “I hope the coronavirus does not interfere with our goal of winning district for the 10th year in a row. I feel that the decision to cancel the tournament and other outside of school activities were fair because we have no idea where the kids from out of Austin were before and if they could be potentially sick.”

Senior outfielder Jacob Castillo agreed.

“I think it’s the right thing to do. It’s about safety. We’re missing two games that we could’ve easily had a chance to win. And honestly I don’t think it will affect the season.”

The baseball team will also miss the start of district play against LBJ that was arranged to take place Monday and Tuesday March 16 and 17 followed by a team retreat.

“No. I think it’s just an unfortunate situation but they are probably just doing this because it is the safe thing to do.” said LBJ varsity baseball player Ikey Kohler. “Besides not playing the game at the scheduled time, I don’t think it will affect our team as we play y’all [McCallum] in our district opener.”

Some players expressed frustration that the games were cancelled but also understanding that it was the right thing to do under the circumstances. Austin reported three reported cases of Coronavirus on Friday, a man in his 60s, a woman in her thirties as well as as Carmel Fenves, the wife of UT president Gregory L. Fenves.

According to Austin Public Health Interim health authority Dr. Mark Escott neither of the first two cases is connected, and both were not contracted from within the Austin community. The same is true for Fenves, who contracted the virus while in New York.
Junior baseball player Jacob Masters said early Saturday that he thinks that officials are overreacting.

“I think that right now the issue is being taken a little too seriously. I think that the preventative measures are a bit overboard, at least at the local level, as they are impeding our daily lives,” Masters said. “Since we use every opportunity we can to get better, missing these games, practices and events is going to put halt to our team’s growth and stop the momentum we’ve been gaining in its tracks, But, our team is extremely dedicated, to both the game and to each other. So, I’m sure we’ll find a way to manage no matter what.”

Bella Russo
Sophomore pitcher Mary Ayala winds up to and steps toward the plate while sophomore third baseman Daisy Elizondo gets in ready position in case the ball is hit her way. Photo by Bella Russo.

Like the baseball team, the softball teams is also missing practices and at least five games.

“When I found out about the games being canceled, I was kind of sad because i really love playing softball,” Mary Ayala said. “To know we won’t be playing five whole games kind of sucks, but [I also felt] happy because I take my health really serious and don’t want to get sick. … At the end of the day our health is more important and we should take care of ourselves.”

Our team is extremely dedicated, to both the game and to each other. So, I’m sure we’ll find a way to manage no matter what.”

— junior baseball player Jacob Masters

Senior Janael Copeland said she also had mixed feelings about the cancellations.

“’I’m kind of back and forth on the precautions being taken about the virus,” Copeland said. “On the one hand, if we’re strict about taking care of the virus now, we prevent it from spreading and getting really bad like countries such as Italy are dealing with. On the other hand, most people who get it have mild cases and simply have to just stay home until the symptoms go away. I can understand both sides of it, but going as far as to cancel school and school activities is annoying and really inconvenient.”

Ayala said all the team can do is be ready when they are able to take the field again.

“A lot of us are sad/angry, but we can’t really do anything about it, but I know once we get back on the field we will put 110 percent into everything we do.”

According to Copeland, the postponement of games and practices is particularly hard for the seniors on the team who are playing their final high school sports season.

Practices were what I looked forward to every week that will not happen right away if ever because of the virus.”

— LASA student Andy Wang, Ultimate Frisbee Players League of Austin Youth Committee member

Other non-UIL sanctioned sports have also voluntarily postponed games. The Ultimate [Frisbee] Players League of Austin (UPLA) released a statement postponing games and tournaments in alignment with USAU (USA Ultimate) policy. UPLA is working to reschedule all UPLA events including Youth Spring League that McCallum students participate in.

“I think the precautions taken were necessary to ensure our safety,” said Andy Wang, a LASA student and a member of the UPLA Youth Committee. “I agree with the decision that was made. What’s significant about missing those is up to a month deprived of Frisbee. Spring league is great for schools to come together and play, and practices were what I looked forward to every week that will not happen right away if ever because of the virus.”

What is happening in sports is of course a microcosm of what is happening in the larger culture as social gatherings of any kind are being limited in an attempt to slow the spread of the Coronavirus and limit cases of COVID-19.

With Saturday’s announcement prohibiting all gatherings in Austin of more than 250 people, it seems like that the UIL-ban on sports won’t be lifted on March 30 at least not within the city limits.

It remains to be seen when the games will resume for the Knights and for athletes through metro Austin, Texas, the United States and for that matter the world.

But wherever they are played, these sporting events are just games.

It’s a point that Copeland understands all too well.

“I know someone going to my college [Colorado State] whose mom and stepdad have coronavirus and while they’re at the hospital getting treatment, he’s stuck at home [in Illinois] in self quarantine,” Copeland said. “It’s just crazy to me how I know someone who’s been personally affected by it; it makes you realize how real this outbreak is.”

— with reporting by Anna McClellan and Elisha Scott