By Kyle Brennan, Citizen’s News
The Naugatuck Valley League’s postseason divisional tournaments, which were set to be played from Nov. 7-14 as a cap to the pandemic-shortened fall season, were canceled due to the area’s recent uptick in COVID-19 cases.
In a statement, the league said it decided to cancel the tournaments “out of an abundance of caution and concern for the health and safety of the NVL student-athlete(s) and the uncertainty of being able to successfully play out the NVL divisional tournaments to their completion.”
The decision was unanimous by all 18 athletic directors involved, according to the league statement.
Quarterfinals in most sports were scheduled to begin Nov. 7, but several of those contests were canceled by schools dealing with COVID-related issues. That problem, as well as the distinct possibility that other schools could follow suit, led to the postseason cancelations.
Most other leagues throughout the state chose to continue with their tournaments.
Woodland completed undefeated regular seasons in the NVL Copper Division in boys soccer, girls soccer, boys cross country and girls cross country, and the Hawks would have been favored to win each of those championships. They were also expected to compete for the division title in girls swimming and likely would have reached the tournament final in volleyball against Seymour.
Naugatuck, meanwhile, was undefeated in NVL Iron Division volleyball, while the boys and girls soccer teams would have relished the opportunity to avenge regular-season defeats to Holy Cross and Woodland, respectively, in those tournaments.
Woodland athletic director Chris Decker, Naugatuck athletic director Brian Mariano, and most local coaches expressed before and throughout the fall season their appreciation that at least some games were played — in fact, some were surprised that most schools were able to complete full regular seasons during the pandemic.
The postseason was viewed by many at the start of the fall as a pipe dream, and it came painfully close to happening.
All eyes will now turn to the winter sports season, the start of which was paused by the CIAC pending new guidance by the Connecticut Department of Public Health that suggested all indoor and moderate-risk sports — including basketball, indoor track and swimming — will only be condoned if “appropriate modifications are feasible.” This means the use of face masks, the feasibility of which is unknown.
The sports discussions will be moot if school districts move to fully remote learning models. Under the CIAC’s guidelines set prior to the fall sports season, no school may participate in sports unless it is in a hybrid or fully in-person learning model.
Schools districts around the state, including relatively close by in Waterbury, Wolcott, Shelton and Region 14 (Woodbury and Bethlehem), are moving to fully remote models, and the continued spike of COVID-19 cases in the area may force similar decisions to be made locally in the near future.
Editor’s note: This story was updated Nov. 13.