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Citing safety concerns, MASCAC cancels plan for fall sports playing in spring competition

The reigning Defensive Player of the Year in the MASCAC, Salem State's Patrick Filette now is focused on a fall return for competition.
The reigning Defensive Player of the Year in the MASCAC, Salem State's Patrick Filette now is focused on a fall return for competition.Broglio

When the Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference suspended its 2020 fall sports season last July, the league hoped to conduct fall sports this spring — if it could be safely executed.

But Friday, the eight MASCAC presidents decided to halt that plan. The league cited the high risk of COVID-19 spreading through campuses for the cancellation.

“Regrettably, the highly contagious nature of the COVID-19 virus and the risk of community spread through conference competition proved too great a risk to our student-athletes to engage in conference play,” MASCAC Commissioner Angela Baumann said in a statement.

“With the health and well-being of our student-athletes and our staff as our priority, the difficult decision was made to cancel the fall in spring MASCAC competition.”

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At Salem State, disappointment set in Friday morning when men’s soccer coach Matt Correia notified his team of the decision. During the fall semester, the Vikings participated in team workouts twice a week in preparation for a potential season.

Junior defender Patrick Filetti, a 2018 Newburyport High graduate, said he was not shocked when he heard the news. But that the news was still tough to hear.

“Our whole team had hopes of playing in the spring,” said Filetti, the 2019 MASCAC Defensive Player of the Year. “Obviously with COVID and the rates really high, we’re not able to do it. I kind of assumed that we wouldn’t be doing a whole lot until the vaccine gets rolling. It’s tough.”

The MASCAC, the nation’s oldest Division 3 conference, has eight members — Bridgewater State, Fitchburg State, Framingham State, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Mass. Maritime, Salem State, Westfield State, and Worcester State — and are joined by UMass Dartmouth, Plymouth (N.H.) State, and Western Connecticut State in football; along with Dean College, Eastern Nazarene, Elms College, Mitchell College, and Springfield College in golf.

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Like the fall semester, the MASCAC schools will allow student-athletes training opportunities on campus. Each student-athlete will gain another year of athletic eligibility.

The MASCAC presidents also said in the statement that they are hopeful they can hold a spring sports season. That decision will come in February.

Filetti said he and his Salem State teammates are already looking forward to getting back to competition for the 2021 fall season.

“Right now I’m really looking forward to the fall,” said Filetti. “I’m really hoping we have a good fall season and its normal and we can get back to work then.”

In the Little East Conference, five members — UMass Dartmouth, Castleton, Keene State, Plymouth State, and Rhode Island College — will participate in a double-round robin competition in men’s and women’s basketball this winter.

The season will start Saturday and consist of 10 regular season games for men and nine for women. Upon the conclusion of the regular season, the Little East will host a four-team conference tournament with the winner earning the league’s automatic berth to the NCAA Division 3 Tournament.

Eastern Connecticut will join the five school’s for men’s basketball, but has opted out of the women’s season, while UMass Boston, Southern Maine, and Western Connecticut decided to not participate in either.

“Our staff has worked tirelessly to provide opportunities for competition, training, and conditioning for our student-athletes, and I’m extremely happy that our basketball teams will have the chance to play this season,” UMass Dartmouth Director of Athletics Amanda Van Voorhis said.

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“I am most grateful to Chancellor (Mark) Fuller and the University community for working together to make this happen. We will continue to follow all protocols to ensure the continued health and safety of everyone involved.”

Babson College, a member of the NEWMAC, announced this week they will play men’s and women’s basketball, and men’s ice hockey in limited intercollegiate competition. The NEWMAC canceled its conference season in November, but Babson will play nonleague games starting Jan. 30.