Allegheny unveils spring season plan


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An aerial view of Robertson Field, where several spring sports teams will begin play after almost a year off due to COVID-19.

For the first time in nearly a year, there will be NCAC sporting events at Allegheny College. The announcement was made by the Allegheny Gators website on Feb. 23. Spring sports teams and several winter sports teams will be playing a season this semester. However, fall and other winter sports teams such as men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s football, women’s volleyball and women’s field hockey are unlikely to play a season this spring.

Allegheny will be playing in the conference’s East division along with the College of Wooster, Hiram College, and Kenyon College. The East division was originally supposed to have five teams altogether, but Oberlin backed out before the schedule was set. Additionally, the winner of the East division will host the winner of the West division in a championship series. The West division consists of Depauw, Wabash, Denison, Ohio Wesleyan, and Wittenberg.

Baseball Head Coach Brandon Crum credits the Allegheny College Health Agency, who were determined to put together a spring season. “It’s been very collaborative,” Crum said. “The committees on the campus — from our ACHA, to the training staff and the administration on campus — helped figure out how to play a season safely. It’s taken a lot to get here.”

Despite there being more pressure on each team to win a playoff berth, Crum looks forward to the challenge of winning the East division and winning the NCAC championship as well.

“If we happen to win our side of the conference, we would technically host the conference championship for one of the first times in school history, so we are very excited,” Crum said.

Most teams are expected to play their first game in late March or early April. Therefore,  Allegheny teams will have to make the most of their practices in the following weeks to prepare for the start of the season. Crum went into detail about the COVID-19 protocols his team follows during the preseason workouts.

“The games are the easiest thing we will do,” Crum said. “It’s the training with the COVID-19 policies that are the hardest. We have small pods of 10 people or less, less time inside and outside, and our practices are less than an hour each day.”

Every practice is crucial because many athletes were unable to train at home throughout the pandemic and cold weather in between semesters. Women’s Tennis Head Coach Taylor Coffman emphasized the importance of having a few weeks to train before the games begin.

“One of the priorities for our athletic department and the ACHA is phasing the athletes in,” Coffman said. “Just because of where students are coming from, everything might be shut down around them. So they might have not been able to go to the gym or could have been snowed in.”

Besides limiting practices, Allegheny and the other NCAC teams also decided to play one college team per week. This way, if there is a potential outbreak of the virus, the spread would be limited to fewer institutions. Nevertheless, since each NCAC team only plays one institution a week, some of Allegheny’s sports teams are having both home and away games against the school they are facing in the same week.

For example, the Allegheny’s baseball team is scheduled for many doubleheaders at Robertson Field and on the road.

In a normal season, the Gators play around 40 games, but this year the Gators’ baseball team will play 27 games. Other teams, such as the men’s and women’s tennis teams, are expected to have even fewer games, and only have one match a week. Usually, the tennis season consists of 20 matches, but are only scheduled for nine matches this season.

Besides scheduling, the measures taken during the pandemic affect each team differently. Sports that require closer contact will have their players tested more frequently than the average Allegheny student. However, the athletes on sports teams that allow for more social distancing — such as golf and tennis — will be tested the same amount as other Allegheny students.

Additionally, sports that require less close contact will still take preemptive measures to protect themselves from the virus. Men’s and Women’s Golf Head Coach Jeff Groff explained how his athletes will stay safe during meets.

“The nature of golf itself is to be socially-distanced,” Groff said. “Obviously you don’t have to shake hands, touch each other or be within six feet of each other when walking from the tee to the green from hole to hole.”

Since golf is a socially-distanced sport, Groff mentioned that while on the course, masks may be optional for the athletes. “I am not really sure,” Groff said. “I don’t think my players will have to do that. If the players do need to wear masks then that is fine. However, when traveling in a van, or car, then obviously we will have the masks on.”

There is still a debate across the NCAC whether or not players are obligated to wear a mask in the field of play. When athletes are traveling, or not directly taking part in the game, they are expected to be wearing masks and are socially distanced from one another.

The NCAC is also trying to stop the spread of the virus by starting off the season with no fans at any of their sporting events. This rule could be re-evaluated over the course of the season, and Coffman believes that either outcome could occur.

“If we go a whole season without spectators, then we go a whole season without spectators,” Coffman said. “At least we get to have a season.”

Sports fans can look forward to the spring season starting on March 19, where the Women’s Basketball team plays a non-conference game on the road against Mount Aloysius at 5:30 p.m.