After many months of uncertainty for student-athletes, SUNY Plattsburgh announced the return of 2021 spring sports on Feb. 23. The Plattsburgh State Cardinals will begin competitions March 20. The teams competing this season are baseball, softball, track and field, women’s tennis and women’s and men’s lacrosse.
The first upcoming competition will feature the women’s lacrosse team versus SUNY Cortland. Coaches are safely preparing their athletes for competition. Practices are in 10-person ‘pods’ and will continue for two weeks, until they can return to full team gatherings.
Athletes are required to wear a mask during practices, but during competition they are allowed to remove them unless players on the bench. Social distancing will be practiced, equipment is limited and cleaned after each use, overnight stays are no longer permitted and the number of games will be limited. These changes have impacted coaches and players.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity we’re going to have, especially for our upperclassmen. We have some fifth year students coming back to play since their season got cut short,” Head Baseball Coach Kris Dorrey said. “But, I’m really excited for all our student athletes that get to compete.”
Dorrey expressed his feelings about their previous season being cut off and stated that it was unlike any other circumstance he had witnessed in his 25 years of coaching.
“Last spring was the one of the most difficult meetings I’ve ever had with a baseball team, to go down to our locker rooms and tell our guys, especially those seniors that didn’t have the opportunity to come back, that their season was over and we were done,” Dorrey said.
“To see 22-year-old kids cry because they got something taken away from them — that’s a sad thing.”
This season is really important for all the athletes, who got their season cut short last year from the pandemic. Many student-athletes are starting fresh this season from not having access to practices, gyms and their teammates.
“They didn’t get to end on their own terms they kind of got it yanked out from under them all the sudden, I don’t ever want to have to do that again. It was a terrible thing,” Dorrey said.
The baseball team has 40 teammates, but this season, they are travelling with only 24 instead of the whole team. In previous years, SUNY Plattsburgh baseball would travel for a two-day conference at Cortland. However, they are now waking up at 6 a.m. to play and leave from Cortland in one day. With no spring break, there will be no competition and travel either. According to Dorey, those trips were important for developing camaraderie.
“I think they’ll still develop that bond that they’re in this together and they’re going to be able to have those memories and challenge each other,” Dorrey said.
According to Erik Matz, a SUNY Plattsburgh business administration and marketing major and an outfield baseball player, being told he couldn’t play last year was a problem. He’d never experienced a season being cut short, which was an awful new feeling.
“It means everything to me. I’m a senior – this is my last year,” Matz said. “I love the sport of baseball. I love the team work, and the work ethic. I’ve learned a lot going through the program and from my teammates. The season could be cut tomorrow, but I’m not going to think like that. I’m so excited to play baseball again. It’s a big thing for me to step on the field again.”
“Our players are ecstatic that we can get back to some sense of normalcy and have the ability to play this season. Our program can’t thank President Enyedi and Director of Athletics Mike Howard enough for allowing us the opportunity to play this season,” Men’s Lacrosse head Coach Andrew Hauk said.
Hauk explained how his team will adapt to the changes made this season by practicing in pods for two weeks while maintaining social distancing requirements until they are allowed full team practices. The pods allowed the team to “focus more on the fundamentals and on skill” before starting the dynamics of a full team practice. Hauk said that the team has gotten better through the heavily skilled-based practicing through strong “work ethic, tough mentality and team chemistry.” He expressed that ending the season last year was a helpless feeling and he felt bad for seniors across the country who did not get to end on their own terms.
“We’re anxious to play our first game, we haven’t played in a while, but it’s a lot of built up excitement and energy to play.” Zach Gill, a SUNY Plattsburgh childhood and special education major, and a lacrosse player, said. “Just being able to play games is important enough to everybody. It’s all about going up against other teams.”
The Head Coach of the Track and Field team, Nicholas Jones, is excited to begin practicing with his athletes.
“I feel that it is important for them to get back to training and competing for their physical and mental health. The key will be continuing to do it in a safe manner.” Jones said. “The athletes are grateful for the opportunity and have been a huge part of keeping everyone safe so far.”
For SUNY Plattsburgh nursing major and tennis player Cydney Bond, losing her season was disappointing. While playing is a passion, she is happy her family and teammates are healthy. Masks and social distancing seem minor to Bond, as long as she can get herself back on the tennis court.
“Tennis is a lifelong sport, so in the future I hope to continue to play and utilize all the lessons it’s taught me,” Bond said. “I feel ecstatic about being able to practice in person again.”
SUNY Plattsburgh’s softball team will be playing less games than normal this season due to the pandemic. The conference was split into East and West divisions to keep the travel distances shorter.
“It was heartbreaking not only to me, but more importantly, my athletes,” Head Softball Coach Samantha Van Dorn said. “This is why my team is beyond grateful to get the opportunity to get on this field this season.”
The Plattsburgh State Cardinals are ready to get back into action this season. Coaches and players are prepared to adapt to the changes made by COVID-19 restrictions. They are grateful and excited about the decision to resume spring sports.