By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News
Precautionary measures put in place by the CIAC and state health officials last fall in response to the COVID-19 pandemic did allow most high school sports teams — the tackle football season was cancelled — to play at least something close to a season.
In the Naugatuck Valley League, teams only played divisional opponents.
“Last year was really tough,” Naugatuck head coach Lisa Mariano said. “There were times you would play the same teams two and three times over a five-game span and you really couldn’t gauge the progress of your team.”
The NVL planned divisional postseason tournaments last season, but they were canceled due to an uptick in coronavirus cases. The Woodland girls soccer team went 11-0-1 and the boys went 10-0-1 last season, but neither team got a chance to compete for a championship.
“That was a little hard to take,” Woodland girls coach Cait Witham said. “But we did play a scaled-down version, playing only the teams in our division. I keep reminding the girls not to look back at last year’s record because we didn’t play a lot of tough teams like, Holy Cross, Watertown and St. Paul.”
This year, teams are back to a normal schedule. The Woodland boys and girls soccer teams kicked off the fall season Sept. 9 with out-of-league games. The boys tied Brookfield, 1-1, at home, while the girls played to a 1-1 draw at Pomperaug.
With all systems go this fall, NVL and state postseason tournaments are planned at season’s end. That’s good news, especially for seniors looking for a chance to compete for a title in their final year.
“After missing the chance to compete at the NVL championship, I’m really looking forward to having a more normal cross country season,” Naugatuck senior runner Julia Kropo said. “We are excited to see more meets this year and to have a more complete season.”
The Naugatuck volleyball team came into last season as the defending NVL champions. After finishing 12-0 last year in divisional play, there is an urgency this season for the squad.
“We are fired up,” Naugatuck senior Kendall Allen said. “Coming off winning the NVL and then going undefeated we feel everyone will be out to beat us. That lets us know that we need to work even harder. We definitely feel we have something to prove. We feel confident with the players we have coming back that we can finish what we started.”
One of the oddest scenarios from last year played out at swimming pools, where many meets were virtual ones without opponents in the next lane. That took the wind out of the competitive sails of meets.
“It’s a lot different racing against a clock than it is to race against a competitor in the next lane,” Woodland girls swim coach Mike Magas said. “Having another team on the pool deck really picks it up a notch and takes it to another level. We will be looking forward to that this season.”