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CORONAVIRUS

After Little East suspends fall sports because of coronavirus, UMass Dartmouth won’t compete until 2021

Melrose High graduate Steve Stromski, a rising junior at UMass Dartmouth, earned all-conference honors last season.
Melrose High graduate Steve Stromski, a rising junior at UMass Dartmouth, earned all-conference honors last season.UMass Dartmouth

Steve Stromski was looking forward to another competitive cross-country season this fall at UMass Dartmouth, following up on a sophomore campaign in which the Melrose High graduate earned all-Little East Conference honors.

Now the captain-elect will be trying to just keep in touch with his teammates and friends from afar.

The Little East announced Tuesday that it will not conduct regular-season conference games or championships for the 2020 fall season because of the coronavirus pandemic, a decision that affects programs at 10 Massachusetts schools, including UMass Dartmouth.

Member institutions are allowed to organize non-conference competition, but UMass Dartmouth, which sponsors six programs that are affiliated with the Little East, will not explore that option and announced the suspension of athletic competition through Dec. 31.

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“I was both surprised and expecting this decision,” said Stromski, a graphic design and digital media student who earned US Track & Field and Cross-Country Coaches Association All-Academic honors for the second time this past spring. “I had been hearing certain sports were of lower risks than others, but I felt as though the chances of a season happening were slim.”

At UMass Dartmouth, men’s and women’s cross country, women’s field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball compete in the Little East. On July 16, the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) announced the suspension of fall sports, a decision that impacted the Corsairs football program.

UMass Dartmouth’s men’s hockey team competes in the MASCAC, and though the conference has not made a decision regarding winter sports, the Corsairs will opt out of the season.

“The decision not to compete this fall is painful, but it is the right one,” Amanda Van Voorhis, director of athletics and recreation at UMass Dartmouth, said in a statement. “Our primary responsibility is to protect the best interests of health and safety for all of our student-athletes. We want to provide the best possible experience, and that must be done in a responsible manner.”

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The school will provide its student-athletes with conditioning and training opportunities, and they will retain a year of athletic eligibility.

At the beginning of July, UMass Dartmouth discontinued eight sports, including men’s and women’s swimming and diving, men’s golf, and men’s lacrosse, though the decision was not related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

UMass Boston teams also compete in the Little East Conference, but the school announced in June that it would not sponsor a fall athletic season.

Affiliated members of the Little East Conference include Bridgewater State, Fitchburg State, Framingham State, Massachusetts Maritime, Salem State, Western New England, Westfield State, and Worcester State.

With the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) suspending play last week, and the Little East decision on Tuesday, there will be no Division 2 and 3 conferences in New England competing in athletics this fall.

On Monday, Brandeis announced that it would extend its suspension of athletics through the end of the year. The University Athletic Association, of which Brandeis is a member, announced earlier in July that it would suspend its fall conference schedule, and the school canceled its fall season July 14.


Jenna Ciccotelli can be reached at jenna.ciccotelli@globe.com.