A Season in Review: Fall Sports and COVID-19


Laura Shaban

Throughout 2020, everyone’s life was affected in some way or another by the pandemic. Last school year, students missed out on events like field trips and college tours. For seniors, graduation and prom were drastically different from what any teen would expect in their final year of high school. At Central, student-athletes were hit especially hard by school shutdowns. Spring sports like lacrosse, track & field, and baseball were canceled due to safety concerns as schools adjusted to virtual learning. However, with new information and safety guidelines, fall sports at Central were able to, for the most part, continue on as planned.

 The 2020 sports season began late, officially starting on October 1, 2020, a full month later than usual. Each team faced their own struggles with maintaining social distancing and staying safe during practices and games, but in the end, Central’s teams pulled through. A great example of this was the HC soccer teams. Despite COVID-19 cases that led to the boy’s soccer team quarantining mid-season, the team did well, finishing at #6 in the state, finishing 11-3. The girl’s soccer team also had a strong season, finishing 12-2-1.

Unfortunately, not every team was able to return for the fall season. The girl’s volleyball season was pushed back multiple times and is now scheduled for the third and final season of the year, in the spring. This was quite a jarring change from a normal season for players on the HC girl’s volleyball team, who are used to playing early in the school year. Practices and games normally held from August-November will now be accompanied by the rainy days and pollen-filled air of spring. 

Central’s cross country teams were heavily impacted by COVID restrictions as well, although fortunately the season was not canceled entirely. Most normally scheduled meets were canceled and meets had to be locally organized instead. Both the boys and girls teams placed in the top 5 at the season’s sectional meet, with the girls placing third and the boy’s team placing fourth. In a normal year, this would have qualified the teams for the Group Championship meet, however, the event was sadly canceled due to safety concerns.  

In spite of cancellations caused by the pandemic, the HC girls tennis team was able to carry on with their season. However, they faced a few setbacks going into the season. A majority of postseason play was called off by the NJSIAA, and preseason practices began later than usual. Practices also came with extra steps, including taking the temperatures of players before practice, maintaining social distancing, and COVID surveys that all of the players were required to take. Undeterred, the team won a sectional title, which in any other year would have qualified them for the Tournament of Champions at Mercer County Park. This was also the first state sectional title won in the history of Central’s girl’s tennis program. But, like many other events, the tournament was canceled. Other tournaments canceled included the Hunterdon Warren Sussex Tri-County tournament, once again, due to COVID. The team’s responsibility paid off, however, and the season passed without incident. While the girls finished tenth in the state, the reduced amount of games and practices led to disappointment over the potential to have performed even better. 

The field hockey team also had a decent season, despite many setbacks and restrictions. The teams were doing well throughout the season, with varsity finishing off with a record of 8-5. They lost in the sectional quarterfinals in a well-fought game against Ridge High School, who would later go on to win the finals. The JV team faced a small setback, having to go on a 2-week quarantine, but finished strong with a record of 7-2.

Beyond the impact on how teams were able to practice this year, the games themselves saw changes this season. Hunterdon Central issued safety guidelines for home games during the Fall season, including restrictions on the number of people who could attend. Outdoor events were limited to 500 people, masks were required, and all attendees had to maintain a six-foot distance during games. Centra

l also took steps to eliminate the potential dangers that would arise from selling tickets in-person by requiring those who wished to buy tickets to order them in advance using the Online Ticket Request posted on the school website. 

Overall, the 2020 fall season at Hunterdon Central was vastly different from years past. While other activities have been easily transferred to a virtual format, sports stand out as one of the most challenging to adapt to COVID safety guidelines.