Some Northeast Teams Struggling to Put Together Competitive Schedules


Shea Dolce of Darien is a Boston College commit.

Meg McCormack remembers it vividly. 

After an early Saturday morning preseason practice, her North Shore (N.Y.) girls’ lacrosse team gathered for some post-practice bagels. 

It was just over a year ago — March 14, 2020 — and there was a feeling things would change in the next week. But nobody fathomed just how different it would be. 

There would be no practice the next week and no games for the season. High school lacrosse, and sports in general, were put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic with no clear path for a return. 

“It was heartbreaking because it was so out of our control and something these girls worked so hard for,” McCormack said. “It felt like it was something pulled from underneath them. It was extremely difficult to tell them all over Zoom the season was canceled. The girls were so mature with their response to it all and understood there was something much bigger in the world happening.”

A year later and McCormack, who is also the Section VIII girls’ lacrosse coordinator, is preparing for the long-anticipated return to play. It’s not a return to complete normalcy. Safety protocols, including face masks, COVID testing, temperature checks, sanitizing equipment and a limit — or complete elimination — of spectators, are all part of the new normal in 2021. 

But lacrosse is back, and that’s what is most important. 

“The kids have really been missing this aspect of their high school careers and to be back with their teammates and coaches, playing the game they love, will be amazing for all the teams,” McCormack said. “They’ll definitely compete hard and not take anything for granted, realizing things can end in a blink of an eye.”

There also are significant changes in terms of scheduling. In New York, the start of the season is pushed back about six weeks because the abbreviated fall season, known as Fall II, started in early March. On Long Island, the first day of practice is April 22 with initial games scheduled for April 29. A regular season, which will consist of 9-13 conference-only games, will conclude with a county championship game, and possibly a Long Island championship game. 

The end of the season has recently been extended to June 19. However, there will be no New York State championship tournament for the 2021 season. 

“Exactly a year ago was our last practice, and we haven’t played in a high school game since,” Farmingdale (N.Y.) girls’ coach Tracy Weiner said. “It’s very disheartening in that regard, to lose the entire year and the kids are unhappy that they only get part of a season back after missing a whole season. But I tell them just be happy; it’s better than nothing.”

And while the state tournament is still on in Connecticut, the regional decision to eliminate out-of-state competition has resulted in a drastically different — and less challenging — schedule for both the boys’ and girls’ powerhouse programs at Darien. 

Jeff Brameier, the longtime Blue Wave boys’ coach, said they are only starting a week later than usual — there is no spring football in the FCIAC — and Darien will have 16 regular-season games beginning April 13. 

But some of Darien’s biggest and most anticipated matchups of the regular season, showdowns against fellow regional powerhouses like St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) and Manhasset (N.Y.) are off. Brameier instead picked up Fairfield Prep to join Brunswick as a non-conference opponent, while facing New Canaan and Ridgefield twice apiece. 

“It’s frustrating because we’re used to having great competition and some of those games are our biggest rivalry games between St. Anthony’s, Manhasset and Yorktown,” Brameier said. “Those are teams we’ve been playing a long time. You hate to lose them for a second year in a row, but you take what you get.”

It’s even more dramatic for the defending state champion Darien girls’ team, whose most competitive games are annual battles with Long Island powerhouses, like Manhasset and Eastport-South Manor in 2019.

“I’m happy the kids are playing, but this is not going to be a very challenging season for us,” coach Lisa Lindley said. “It’s disappointing for the girls and for me as a coach because it’s a challenge.”

In Connecticut and Massachusetts, state governing bodies adopted the NFHS Boys’ Lacrosse Rules Committee change to the faceoff, eliminating the motorcycle grip — as is the case in the NCAA this year. 

There is no change to the draw control, much to the relief of Lindley, who said she heard rumblings of the use of alternate possession to eliminate all but the opening draw. 

“The implications of that would be very detrimental,” Lindley said. “Draws and faceoffs determine outcomes of games.”

The MIAA also has ruled that halftime be reduced to 5 minutes and time between quarters be limited to a maximum of 2 minutes. The spring season timeframe is April 26-July 3 with sectional tournaments allowed. 

In Rhode Island, the boys’ and girls’ lacrosse season will begin in early May, following the completion of the truncated fall season with competitions completed no later than June 27.

The most anticipated game of any season for St. Anthony’s is the grudge match against archrival Chaminade. This year, those national powers will meet three times — twice in the regular season and once for the NSCHSAA Class AAA crown. 

Both programs had to dramatically alter their schedules, usually stacked with regional foes like Delbarton (N.J.) and Yorktown, as well as national teams in St. Ignatius Prep (Calf.) and McDonogh (Md.).

Now both teams will play a 12-game schedule where they’ll be heavy favorites against the likes of Kellenberg, St. John the Baptist, Iona Prep and Fordham Prep. 

Friars coach Keith Wieczorek, who missed the chance to coach his son Mike in his senior year last spring, said he’s heard from some traditional out-of-state opponents about possible games in May, with hopes restrictions get lifted or loosened by then. 

“As of now, we’re not allowed to schedule any non-conference, out-of-state games, which really handcuffs us and Chaminade considerably,” Wieczorek said. “Over the last few years, we’ve had 8-10 non-conference, out-of-state games, which allowed us to have a pretty remarkable schedule.”

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