The last time Matt Dooley donned a lacrosse uniform, he was a sophomore pole starting for the Lincoln-Sudbury boys’ team, in June 2019, when the Warriors rolled to their fourth Division 1 state final in five years.
Like every other student-athlete, Dooley didn’t even get a chance to practice last spring due to the coronavirus pandemic. But on Wednesday, the MIAA Board of Directors voted, 14-7, in favor of a full state tournament for all spring sports, giving Dooley — and every other senior — one last chance to add to their program’s legacy.
“This is something that’s bigger than ourselves,” Dooley said, paraphrasing the speech he made during a student-led rally at MIAA headquarters in Franklin on Tuesday evening.
“This is something the whole community can rally around. Most of us don’t play just to play. We play to compete. And the end goal of winning a state title means everything to us.”
Coaches and student-athletes anxiously waited for the board’s vote, wondering how they might be influenced by responses to a survey sent out to member schools on the viability of state finals and semifinals. The TMC voted, 18-0, last week to hold sectional tournaments for spring sports, but had previously recommended to forego state semifinals and finals.
On Tuesday night, over half of the players on the boys’ and girls’ lacrosse teams from Lincoln-Sudbury joined the rally at MIAA headquarters organized by the Needham boys’ volleyball program. There was strong representation from the Medfield boys’ and girls’ lacrosse teams among others.
“It was important for our student-athletes to make sure their voices were heard and they did a great job at the rally,” said Medfield coach John Isaf, who led his program to three straight state titles from 2014-16 and a D2 state final in 2019.
“We have to give credit to the MIAA. They looked at how this could be done, they looked at it from different angles, and figured out a way to get it done.”
Now the MIAA Tournament Management Committee will be tasked with figuring out the parameters of a condensed state tournament.
The Board of Directors voted to uphold a June 15 cutoff for all regular season games, and many administrators have expressed reluctance to hold events past the weekend of June 27, so championship hopefuls might play six games in a 12-day span during the heat of early summer. Programs will still be allowed to opt out of a state tournament.
Isaf said the condensed schedule isn’t ideal, but pointed out that it’s not a huge departure from the 2019 schedule, when his team played five games in 15 days.
Maintaining a cutoff date of June 15 alleviates concerns that potential regular season games could be taken away from teams that don’t qualify for the tournament.
“I’m unbelievably grateful that the MIAA decided to reconsider,” said Concord-Carlisle coach Tom Dalicandro, who is also the president of the Eastern Massachusetts Lacrosse Coaches Association.
“We have hundreds of teams that aren’t going to be in the finals, so I was a little bit worried that the regular season would be too short. So if the cut-off date [June 15] stays the same, I think that’s great, and a condensed tournament is just something we’re going to have to live with it.”
“Ultimately, it’s great for kids. Every kid from every high school thinks their team is capable of winning a championship and I think kids deserve that right now. With everything they’ve gone through, having that hope is a good thing.”