Some MAU fall sports sidelined until next year

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BENNINGTON — The fall high school sports season is set to officially begin Tuesday in Vermont. After months of planning and discussions, local athletes are ready to get back to playing their sports.

Well, most athletes that is.

Volleyball and sideline cheer were canceled at Mount Anthony for the upcoming fall season due to the coronavirus, leaving some student-athletes without the opportunity to compete against other schools in their fall sport.

During an Aug. 19 school board meeting, Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union superintendent Jim Culkeen made the determination that MAU has the green light to compete in all fall sports, besides volleyball and cheer.

The Department of Health determined that volleyball matches could not be played indoors with the threat of the coronavirus. An outdoor season was proposed by the Vermont Principals' Association (VPA), but MAU will not be participating, choosing instead to temporarily change volleyball from a varsity sport to a club for the fall.

"Once we get back into school and things start to loosen up a little bit, they're going to do a club type of setting," said MAU athletic director Ashley Hoyt.

According to the VPA, volleyball is allowed to practice and hold team scrimmages indoors, but must play games against other schools outside.

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For MAU, however, the indoor practice option is not on the table at this time.

"All of our buildings, our locker rooms, weight room, everything's closed right now until we're back to full in-person learning," said Hoyt. "So they weren't going to be able to practice indoors."

Hoyt expressed concerns over the outdoor proposal from the VPA, saying it "isn't ideal."

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Among the changes to the game shifting it from indoors to outdoors, a different, heavier, ball is used. Weather also becomes a concern moving the game outdoors as the season trickles into late fall.

There is also the cost aspect, as Culkeen mentioned that MAU would have to purchase $8000 worth of equipment to accommodate an outdoor volleyball season.

Instead, once MAU returns to full time in-person learning, those wishing to still play volleyball will be able to practice against one another and hold intrasquad scrimmages indoors.

Sideline cheer and game-day spirit is the other sport not being offered this year at MAU.

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As of now no spectators will be allowed at MAU games.

Despite not having a varsity sports season, these athletes still have options.

The athletes will have the option to stick with their current sport and participate in practices/drills, or choose to play a different sport.

Along with potentially choosing a different sport to compete in, Hoyt said some girls may choose to take on a managing position on a team. Others may choose to sit out the fall sports season entirely.Volleyball is the second largest girls fall sport at MAU, behind soccer. The volleyball program typically has around 35-40 student-athletes per year.

Sideline cheer, which is grades 7-12, has around 30 student-athletes any given year.

Hoyt pointed out athletes changing the sport they play is not new to MAU, as the school did not offer field hockey last season, forcing athletes to make the same tough decisions they are facing now.

Hoyt said it's hard to tell how many student-athletes who were going to compete in volleyball/cheer will be changing sports. She will have a better idea on Tuesday when the fall sports season officially kicks off after months of uncertainty surrounding it.


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