LOUDONVILLE — All the Siena men’s basketball program knows for certain regarding its latest pause of in-person activities is that its games this Friday and Saturday against Fairfield are no longer on its schedule.
Beyond that, the team doesn’t know when it will be able to resume practicing, and that comes less than two weeks after the Saints — the MAAC preseason favorite — were able to end the first pandemic-related pause of their preseason.
“It’s obviously unfortunate,” Siena men’s basketball head coach Carmen Maciariello said Tuesday during a teleconference with reporters following the school’s athletic department announcing that the program’s in-person “team activities have been put on hold following a positive COVID-19 test result among the program’s Tier 1 personnel.”
Siena already had a 14-day quarantine — as necessitated by MAAC and Albany County guidelines — when it previously had multiple individuals test positive for the novel coronavirus. That pause ended in late November. Maciariello said he was “still waiting to hear” a target for when his team’s latest shutdown could end and wouldn’t venture a guess at one, while Siena athletic director John D’Argenio did not respond to a request for comment.
The Siena women’s basketball games against Fairfield remain scheduled to be played this Friday and Saturday.
Maciariello referred to his team’s latest pause, which was announced three days ahead of the Saints playing Fairfield in an already-delayed season-opening game, as “another obstacle, another hurdle to overcome” for his program. He said he’d be “lying” if he said he wasn’t personally frustrated at his team’s continued inability to play games, but said his frustration has more to do with the “mental toll” all the cancellations, delays and postponements his program has experienced has had on his players.
“Honestly, I find myself needing to meditate, and take a deep breath, and close my eyes and kind of just relax,” Maciariello said. “I get really frustrated. It’s unfortunate.”
Siena won last season’s regular-season MAAC championship and had won 10 consecutive games prior to the cancellation of the in-progress MAAC tournament it was favored to win. The NCAA season’s shutdown amid the developing pandemic in March robbed the Saints of their postseason opportunity. Next, the program lost its ability to meet in the spring and summer prior to being able to hold workouts with safety-related restrictions during the fall semester as the pandemic continued to affect every facet of life in the United States, and Tuesday’s announcement that the Saints trip to Fairfield was off became the latest blow for a team picked to win the 2020-21 MAAC title.
And . . . there’s little the Saints can do, other than wait some more and hope their next scheduled games — vs. Canisius on Dec. 18-19 — don’t also need to be postponed once the duration of the team’s latest pause is figured out.
“It’s something that we have to move past because nothing can be done about it,” Maciariello said.
The coach had put in place safeguards and restrictions during his team’s workouts, but it was unclear Tuesday if any of those measures meant to ease the burden of contact tracing could act to reduce the team’s length of time needed to pause. Maciariello said his players have been wearing masks during workouts, and that sessions on Friday, Saturday and Sunday were limited so they could be conducted following social-distancing guidelines.
“We didn’t have a full team practice just in case this happened,” Maciariello said.
With Siena unable to play this weekend and Quinnipiac also deemed Tuesday unable to play because of a coronavirus case, the MAAC switched its opening-weekend schedule — again — to send Iona to play at Fairfield. Previously, Iona had been switched from playing Monmouth — which recently finished a pause — to Quinnipiac.
While not officially announced, Siena is likely to play at Fairfield on Feb. 26-27, dates the MAAC left open in its scheduling model to accommodate postponed games due to COVID-19.
The start of the NCAA’s Division I basketball season was delayed in September from starting on Nov. 10 to Nov. 25. Once that change was made, the Saints were scheduled to play games at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut on Nov. 26, 28 and 30, but needed to cancel those games because of their first pause. Siena also lost a game scheduled for last Sunday against Vermont when that school decided last month not to play any games prior to the start of America East Conference play.