Westwood senior Abby Crowley did not have a college commitment entering her senior season.
Initially, she wanted to play lacrosse at the next level, but changed her mind as a sophomore, instead focusing on field hockey. But her recruitment process was dependent on club tournaments and showcases scheduled for last spring and games this fall.
But when those events were either cancelled or modified (including the MIAA shifting to 7 vs. 7 play in a truncated 10-game regular season because of COVID-19 concerns), Crowley had to get creative. So she, like many other recruits, put together highlight packages from previous high school games or club tournaments to send to college coaches.
“It was all about sending film, emailing, making yourself known, and making your presence known to all these coaches because you can’t play [in front of] them,” said Crowley, a forward who recently confirmed her commitment to attend Bryant, a Division 1 program in the Northeast Conference.
Fellow Westwood senior Hannah Blomquist re-created various stickhandling videos she found on the internet to send to coaches.
“This spring was so crucial to coaches to see who is able to motivate themselves when you are not actually being forced to go to practice, or signing up for tournaments,” said Blomquist, a center midfielder who will attend Bentley, a Division II program in the Northeast-10.
Barb Weinberg, in her fifth season as head coach at the University of Massachusetts, said she and her staff diligently sort each message, evaluating the videos they are sent.
“Work rate and athleticism, for us, are always the two biggest things we are looking for,” Weinberg said. “If we see that athleticism in the skill set on a first video, then we ask for more footage, even just in a training environment.”
During the pandemic, . NCAA Division I coaches are prohibited from in-person visits with recruits until January; all communications must be done virtually. The most impactful change, however, involves eligibility. Fall and winter athletes have been granted an extra year of eligibility. Also, the NCAA Division 1 Council last week introduced a proposal that would allow all D1 athletes to transfer one time and be eligible immediately without a waiver. These changes are forcing schools to accept smaller recruiting classes.
“It made it confusing because you are communicating with these coaches, you are starting to form relationships with other recruits and coaching staff, but they are just like, ‘We don’t know if we can take you,’ ” Crowley said. “It leaves you wondering. It made it a very different experience for our grade.”
Former Boston College coach Ainslee Lamb, who now runs field hockey showcases and tournaments for 3Step Sports, said, “It is going to take a four-year cycle to have this completely clean itself out.
“Colleges are going to get backed up and it is going to take four years for them to get their classes back in line.”
Once all the hurdles are cleared, an athlete concludes the COVID recruiting process by determining if they would fit into a team’s chemistry, using social media to communicate with future teammates, and deciding if they like a campus during a virtual, or adapted, college tour.
“You are just going off the information you do have access to,” said Andover senior goalie Paige Gillette, who committed to Assumption last week.
“Over the summer you couldn’t do tours or anything. I went on a tour [recently] and it felt almost normal.”
▪ Pingree, like a number of sports programs in the NEPSAC, has not been able to schedule any games this fall. But in practices four times per week, coach Ali Hamlin has put the focus on more skill work. “While this time has been hard for everyone, the kids are eager to have a break from the academic day and enjoy the exercise together outside,” Hamlin said.
Captains lead practices once a week, and Saturdays have become the team’s “competition day,” in which Pingree partakes in game-like situations. The defending Eastern Independent League champions are in the process of scheduling games, though nothing has been confirmed yet, according to athletic director Betsy Kennedy.
▪ Austin Prep, a first-year varsity program, was finally able to take to the field over the weekend after its season opener was delayed because of COVID-19. The Cougars were tied with Bishop Stang with five minutes left in regulation before the Spartans scored two goals to secure a 3-1 Catholic Central League victory.
“This was a big anticipation for the team and the coaches,” AP coach Brianna Robbins said. “There was a lot of excitement and nerves. But it was just great to get out there.” Kerri Finneran, an eighth-grader, scored the first goal in the history of the program.
▪ Austin Prep faced another first-year varsity program on Tuesday, league rival St. Mary’s Lynn, which picked up its first win on Oct. 12 vs. Central Catholic, 5-4. St. John Paul II on Cape Cod remains in search of its first varsity win following a pair of 2-1 losses to crosstown rivals Sturgis East and West in Barnstable.
▪ Scituate (3-0) returned to the field Tuesday for the first time since Oct. 5 and posted a 3-1 win over Patriot League rival Pembroke. AD Peter Umbrianna confirmed that the program had to quarantine for two weeks because of COVID. “We are excited to have them back out there,” he said.
Games to watch
Plymouth North at Silver Lake, Thursday, 4 p.m. — Through four games, the Eagles (3-0-1) have surrendered only five goals.
Scituate at Hanover, Thursday, 4 p.m. — The Sailors prevailed, 3-1, in the teams' first meeting of the season on Oct. 5.
Nauset at Sandwich, Friday, 4 p.m. — The Blue Knights (3-0) and Warriors (3-1) stand atop the Cape & Islands Atlantic division going into this matchup.
Andover at Central Catholic, Saturday, 3 p.m. — Two of the top Merrimack Valley Conference teams go head-to-head Saturday.
Medway at Ashland, Saturday, 11 a.m. — Ashland’s defense will be tested as the Mustangs scored seven goals in their most recent outing.
Jake Levin also contributed to this story.