A conference call between the MIAA Board of Directors Monday provided student-athletes and coaches with a glimmer of hope of salvaging a portion of the 2020 spring season.
The board unanimously voted, 19-0, to extend the deadline for spring season to June 27 with a shortened preseason, regular season, and postseason jammed into an eight-week period in line with Gov. Charlie Baker’s extension of statewide school closure May 4.
Details regarding the length and format of the state tournament would have to be ironed out by the Tournament Management Committee, but this ruling allows for a bit more flexibility by extending the deadline from June 20 to June 27.
"My hope — and I think it’s the hope of everybody — is to try to bring as much normalcy as possible when we’re able to get back to school,” said Cambridge athletic director Tom Arria, a member of the Board of Directors. "Everybody is going to do the best they can do, but we have to be aware that realistically things can shift again.
"As long as we’re provided hope, we have to continue to be hopeful ourselves and make sure we’re planning accordingly.”
Arria pointed out just one day after the board outlined a plan for spring sports to begin after April 27, Baker announced that Massachusetts schools would be closed until at least May 4. But due to the demanding nature of running a diverse athletic program, it’s necessary to plan ahead with a rough outline of dates.
For coaches and student-athletes, the prospect of a state tournament served as a bright spot in an otherwise challenging environment.
“I think we need that,” said Concord-Carlisle boys’ lacrosse coach Tom Dalicandro."I know I was excited just seeing the news today. I had a pep in my step and went for a run right after. It just felt better.
"I’ve been in constant contact with my seniors, checking in on them emotionally and mentally, and this is a gleam of hope for them, and for me.”
Expectations should be tempered as the world deals with a pandemic of unprecedented scale. Baker announced Monday he expected the peak of the coronavirus epidemic to hit Massachusetts by mid-April, leaving only a few weeks for medical experts and health officials to clear the way for large gatherings and school events to be plausible by May 4.
"I am extremely grateful that the MIAA Board took our letter into consideration,” said Lincoln-Sudbury senior Caroline Davis, who was one of 33 EMass girls’ lacrosse captains that teamed up to craft a letter to the state association urging to save the spring season.
“The fact that the decision was unanimous shows how much they care about giving us any season they can. I also want to thank the athletic directors and coaches for all that they have done for all of us.”
For athletes such as St. John’s Prep senior baseball player Will Frain, there is hope for an abbreviated season, but with the understanding it may not be possible.
“Obviously, May 4 is a lot later than any of us really expected,” said Frain, a UMass commit. “But with what’s going on in the world today, it’s hard to complain about the possibility of an eight-week season.”
The Board of Directors voted, 12-0-1, to require a minimum of eight games and a maximum of 12 games for teams to be eligible for the state tournament, and the TMC will continue to discuss the parameters of a truncated 10-day format beginning on June 17.
Dalicandro, who has two daughters home from college and his sophomore son, Matt, on the C-C roster, is cautiously optimistic. As president of the Eastern Mass Lacrosse Coaches Association, Dalicandro wrotea letter to the Board of Directors prior to their meeting, asking them to "consider creative solutions” and to "hold off on any decisions until it becomes necessary.”
Yet, he also recognized the final decision on the matter may not be made by the MIAA this spring.
"I look at it through the lens of my own children,” Dalicandro said. "It’s something that’s been weighing on them. I’m trying to balance expectations and hope, with understanding about what’s going on in the world. This is a lot bigger than lacrosse.”
Globe correspondent Matt Doherty contributed to this report.