By Christina Van Allen, a student in Comm 100
Last year, fall sports missed a regular-season of competitions. It was over a full year, 12 months, and 365 days since there were spikes on a volleyball court, touchdowns on the football field, races at cross country meets, and no goals were scored for either men or women St. John Fisher soccer teams.
Specifically observing the action that took place in the stands at Growney Stadium for the men and women’s soccer games was eerie. The crowds that usually pile into the stadium with popcorn, banners, and even pom-poms to cheer on their team were nowhere to be seen. Instead, athletes were socially distanced from one another, masks on all faces, with health tests given multiple times a week to players and coaches. This was the year where COVID-19 affected St. John Fisher Athletics.
While no sports were in session during the fall semester, fall athletes were hopeful their desired sport would somehow be back in the spring. Their wish came true. St. John Fisher Athletics accommodated that all 25 of the men and women sports were to be offered at the same time during the spring of 2021.
“There were 142 contests in three months”, stated Jen Granger, the Associate Athletics Director/Compliance and Business. Granger described the spring semester of a COVID-19 heavy year as exhilarating, busy, and exciting months where a lot was happening all at once. Even though it was a hectic time for all sporting teams, coaches, and athletes, the sports were being played. Restrictions such as socially distanced benches, masking requirements, and limited spectators continued, but the athletes were able to play the sports they have a passion for with a few different circumstances.
Back at Growney Stadium, current senior soccer player Lakin Woodward agrees with Granger’s description of last year’s season. “All I can say about last year was that it was unique with practices and games seeing everyone wear masks, having COVID-19 testing done, not having any locker room access, and even not being able to have friends, family, or any other spectators in the stands,” said Woodward.
“All around it was a different atmosphere, but we got through it together.” Being a member and co-captain of the Varsity Women’s Soccer team, Woodward reiterates many times that the only way she and her teammates got through the pandemic season was their connection together as a team and the support and guidance of their very own Coach, Molly Romano.
“We were accountable to one another for all athletic protocols and any other modifications that came about throughout the soccer season,” Woodward said. After the women’s challenging and unique soccer season in the spring, they had optimistic attitudes for what the upcoming regular fall season would be like. The fall season of 2021 was right around the corner and the women’s varsity soccer team was ready to start preparing.
The female athletes from the Women’s Varsity soccer team at St. John Fisher College had a fast turnaround as they were back to playing at Growney Stadium in early August for their preseason start. As it was a new year for sports, there were also new protocols to follow as an athlete. For the most part, sports were back to normal during the summer and fall of 2021.
During preseason, athletes needed a negative COVID-19 test with a very high recommendation to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Nevertheless, as preseason came to an end for these female athletes and school began with the start of their regular-season games, there was a sense of relief for female Cardinals that soccer was back to somewhat normal.
Woodward described her senior season as a grateful opportunity. “It felt super good to be back together with no masks, especially during my final season as a Cardinal, I was fortunate to live out my senior season regularly.”
This normal season with no COVID-19 insight for the Varsity Women’s Soccer Team brought to light, power, and confidence to their 2021 fall season. The Cardinals had a successful end to their season with an appearance in the Empire 8 Championship Finals for the first time in program history.
As Granger described previously about each of these reasons, it was good to see these athletes play their sport in any way possible. Granger saw that athletes, coaches, staff, and fans have been COVID-19 tired with just wanting normalcy. Woodward even has a positive outlook for what is to come in the near future with sports with no masking or health testing required.