A day after the New York State Public High School Athletic Association decided to move “high” risk fall sports — football and volleyball, plus competitive cheerleading’s fall season — to competing next March, Section II announced Thursday that it will not sponsor postseason play for the sports remaining active in the upcoming fall season that starts Sept. 21.
Already, the NYSPHSAA had announced it will not sponsor state tournaments for fall sports, but the decision to cancel Section II championships was yet another tough blow delivered for area programs that have not been able to compete since March because restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.
“That’s wonderful. That’s ridiculous,” Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake field hockey coach Kelly Vrooman said after finding out Section II postseason play won’t happen this fall season. “I haven’t even digested that yet because I thought they were going to try to have sectionals, just have it, no fans and not have it like at a big venue and just have it.”
Vrooman’s Burnt Hills program won its eighth consecutive Section II Class B crown last year.
“As an educator and as a coach, I’m sure they’re going to want us to put a smile on our face and be like, ‘Wow, this is not a bad thing. You know, think of the positives. You’re going to have a season,’ ” Vrooman said. “But I don’t know. That’s hard to explain to kids. That’s the Burnt Hills philosophy. That’s why we practice every day, is to get to sectionals.”
The conversation won’t be any easier for Johnstown field hockey coach Christina Krempa, whose Lady Bills finished last season as the state runner-up and return 10 starters.
“It’s going to be devastating for them because they were fully expecting a state championship. They had been talking about it on the bus ride home an hour after we lost by one goal, last November,” Krempa said. “We kind of got them through that earlier this summer [when regional and state championships were canceled], except I told them that we would get our sectional title back.
“Now, they’re not going to have that opportunity.”
The start of the fall season was delayed for approximately a month. That played a significant role in Section II’s decision to cancel postseason play, as did a desire to reduce travel for teams.
“Our ultimate goal in a shortened season is to give the opportunity to play as many contests as we possibly can,” Section II executive director Ed Dopp said. “We felt in every decision that we tried to make, we tried to consider doing anything and everything that we can or could to reduce the possibility of bad things happening, or things happening that might lead to a shutdown.”
“As somebody on the Section II Executive Committee,” Shenendehowa athletic director Chris Culnan said, “we heard loud and clear early on that the main goal — even going back to last spring — was getting kids on the field and getting them to be able to play.”
Removing Section II postseason play allows for more schools to compete for longer, too, rather than shifting teams into single-elimination tournaments after playing regular-season games for several weeks.
“As league presidents, we were more concerned with completing a league-type schedule for these kids and getting as many league games as we can,” said Steve Nolan, Amsterdam’s athletic director and president of the Foothills Council. “Especially in the Foothills Council, we were more concerned with focusing on the league schedule so these kids can say, ‘We won the Foothills Council’ in whatever sport, as opposed to trimming things down so a few teams could go on in sectionals.”
League championship events, Culnan said, will be possible.
“I think . . . how the season finishes in the Suburban Council is clearly an ongoing discussion,” Culnan said. “As directors, we’re meeting weekly to try to figure out how to put a good product out for our kids, to give them something to work for.”
While Section II confirmed Thursday its decision to move forward with “low” and “moderate” risk sports, individual schools still get the final say on whether their teams will compete. On Thursday, Bethlehem announced it will only participate in “low” risk varsity sports this fall, meaning that it won’t field varsity teams in soccer or field hockey. Last year, Bethlehem won the Section II Class AA girls’ soccer championship.
“You don’t want to lose any team, but every district has the right to choose what they want to do,” Culnan said.
On Thursday, Section IX athletics announced that all of its fall sports will be moved to the newly created “Fall II” season in March and April.
Adam Shinder contributed to this story.