Fans will be allowed to attend any high school sporting event — indoors or outdoors — this spring.
Section XI, the governing body of high school athletics in Suffolk County, announced the decision Tuesday afternoon, which affects the fall sports season that was moved amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It followed a Monday night meeting of the Athletic Council, in conjunction with the Executive Board.
No more than two people are allowed per student-athlete, both inside and out, subject to facility capacities — the only difference being there will be no spectators for the visiting teams allowed indoors. Section XI Executive Director Tom Combs said schools may be more restrictive if they choose.
“We will have a statement on our website regarding safety precautions as we move closer to contests beginning next week,” he said. “Social distancing, mask-wearing, attestation forms, temperature checks — all COVID-19 precautions — will be in place. Schools may also vary in their requirements.”
Combs said high-risk sports will be treated the same for the fall season as they were for the winter, with teams needing to test for the novel coronavirus on a weekly basis. Teams playing sports labeled low and moderate risk do not need to be tested. The executive director said schools will continue to have the option to be more restrictive than the policy states.
“We are looking forward to seeing the student-athletes competing on the athletic fields this March,” Combs said. “A ‘fall’ season in March is quite different, but it is definitely better than the alternative. After completing the winter season, we are optimistic that complete seasons will be played by the majority of our teams. The athletes must strictly adhere to the safety protocols in place to protect one another.”
Additional protection measures include temperature taking of players and coaches prior to games, minimizing equipment sharing, maintaining attendance logs, wearing masks when possible and filling out attestations that players are free of symptoms. Masks are to be worn at all times when a player is on the sidelines, and to be worn as tolerated by athletes when competing.
Let’s take a look at when sports seasons will begin, and some of the teams and players to watch this season.
The cross country season will run from March 8 through April 7.
Southampton’s boys team, having won the League VII title the last six years in a row, is an automatic favorite. Now-seniors Reese Nugent and Griffin Schwartz, and juniors Saintino Arnold, Harrison Gavalas and Billy Malone all return to the team.
East Hampton’s girls team won its first-ever county crown in 2019, and finished seventh out of 11 teams at the state championships, and the boys sent now-junior Evan Masi to the state meet. Seniors Bella Tarbet and Ava Engstrom and junior Emma Hren are among others who return to the team.
Westhampton Beach’s boys cross country team, going undefeated in League V in 2017 and League VI in 2018 and 2019, has won two straight Suffolk County Class B titles, and closed out the 2019 season at the Nike Cross Regional Championships. The Hurricanes are on an 18-win dual-meet streak dating back to 2016. Be on the lookout for junior Gavin Ehlers, who placed second in Division III and second in the county in a new record for sophomores. The girls team returns senior Jackie Amato, who placed second in the county and qualified for states.
Pierson’s girls cross country team also won a county title in 2019. Seniors Penelope Greene will lead the girls, while Ben McErlean will lead the boys and both are poised to have banner seasons, according to their coaches. Greene finished second in Division IV and has been to the state meet the last three seasons. McErlean also made a state appearance in 2019 after placing fourth overall in the Class C/D race, third among fellow ‘C’ runners.
Field hockey matchups take place March 9 through April 13.
This season, field hockey games will be played in four 15-minute quarters instead of two 30-minute halves. The New York State Public High School Athletic Association rules committee made the change with the hope it will allow teams to maximize play. There will be two-minute breaks after the first and third quarters, and a 10-minute halftime, in which teams will swap goals.
The Whalers — returning all but two players on an already young team from last season — will look to remain strong contenders after coming up short in the Long Island Class C championship game in 2019. Pierson has won the county crown every year since 2015.
Players to watch will be sophomore midfielders Emma Rascelles and Meredith Spolarich, and sophomore goalie Maeve O’Donoghue.
The football season begins March 12, with the regular season ending April 10.
There will be eight league champions crowned as well as four conference champions. On April 17, the top two teams from each league will cross over with the next league in the semifinals. On April 24, the winners of the semifinal games will play for conference championships, while the other two teams will play for third place.
Westhampton Beach returns some top student-athletes from last year’s team that fell to East Islip, 42-27, in the Division III semifinals. Seventeen seniors graduated from that squad. Returners include senior running back and linebacker Dom Savino, who lost 25 pounds over quarantine to change positions from nose tackle and guard; senior quarterback Christian Capuano; and junior running back Deegan Laube, who is the younger brother of University of New Hampshire sophomore running back and former Carl A. Hansen Award-winner Dylan Laube.
East Hampton returns to the varsity scene this season after playing a junior varsity schedule the past few seasons, while Hampton Bays will also continue to play in Division IV. For the first time possibly ever, Southampton will not field a varsity team for this fall season, due to low numbers.
The boys golf season will run from March 16 to April 24 with an individual tournament taking place shortly after, according to Section XI.
Southampton senior Jack McDonnell, who earned All-County honors, returns to the Mariners team that placed second in Suffolk in the first ever team county championship in 2019. Southampton and Westhampton Beach tied for the League VIII title last season.
East Hampton freshman James Bradley was also tabbed All-County for his individual performance and returns to the Bonackers along with seniors Aiden Cooper and Charles Goldsmith, sophomores Trevor Stachecki and J.P. Amaden and freshman Nico Horan-Puglia — all of whom earned a spot in the county tournament.
The boys and girls soccer seasons will run from March 8 to April 8. Tournaments will take place in April, wrapping up on April 24.
Southampton’s boys team lost in the Class B final last season, 3-1, to Center Moriches. The Mariners were the No. 1 seed after going on a 12-0 run to start the season, en route to the program’s first Suffolk County final appearance since 2015. Senior Ashton Triffitt will look to defend the team between the pipes and classmate Ryan McDermott will move the ball through midfield. Not returning to the team is now-former head coach Dave Riley, who stepped aside to focus on family. He has been replaced by his assistant, Mike Valentine.
The girls team suffered a 2-0 loss at the hands of top-seeded Babylon in the Suffolk County Class B semifinals in 2019, graduating only one senior starter — goalkeeper Angely Ramirez. Returning are junior forward Ellie Avallone, sophomore forward Taylor Zukosky and sophomore midfielder and forward Juliette Archer.
East Hampton’s boys team, which graduated six seniors, lost in sudden-death double overtime in the playoffs in 2019. The strength of last year’s team, though, lied in the junior class. Those now-seniors include Christian Gomez, Christopher Pintado, Aaron Sarmiento and Matthew McGovern. Senior Chris Barahona will return in goal.
Hampton Bays boys dropped a 1-0 playoff opener at Babylon last season. The Baymen graduated eight off that squad, but only two were consistent starters. Senior Chris Vasquez, classmate Darwin Fernandez, junior James Salas and classmate Josue Palacios are back this season.
The swimming season runs March 9 through April 9.
The East Hampton team, also made up of students from Pierson and Bridgehampton, placed second in the League III championship meet last season and sixth out of 26 teams in Suffolk County.
Sophomore Jane Brierly is the only one of four swimmers to return that made the state meet in 2019. She helped the 200-yard freestyle relay and the 200 medley relay to second and 11th-place finishes in the county, respectively, and finished fifth in the county in the 200 individual medley. She also competed in the 100 breaststroke at states. Pierson senior Kiara Bailey-Williams, who also rejoins the squad, finished 14th in the 200 individual medley at counties and 21st in the 100 backstroke.
The girls tennis season will run from March 8 through April 12.
A playoff tournament will take place shortly after the regular season, according to Section XI, which will be announced in mid-April.
Westhampton Beach reached the school’s first ever Long Island Championship the last time it was on the court, and is poised for another strong individual season with the return of No. 1 singles standout Rose Hayes. The now-junior made it to the state tournament the past two seasons after finishing first in the county in 2018 and 2019. The Lady Hurricanes also placed first in the county as a team the last two seasons. Freshman Katelyn Stabile, at No. 2 singles, who clinched the county crown for Westhampton, placed second in Division IV to Hayes. After losing top doubles duos for the second straight season, that end of the court will need a little more work. Westhampton graduated its No. 1 and No. 2 doubles pairs from last year, and lost its No. 1 doubles team the year prior.
The East Hampton team sees the return of Pierson junior Juliana Barahona to No. 1 singles, who was in the No. 2 spot the last two seasons. The Bonackers entered the county tournament as the No. 7 seed in 2019.
Boys and girls volleyball matches will take place between March 8 and April 16.
The girls will have a tournament from April 17 to April 24, and the boys from April 20 to April 24.
Westhampton Beach’s teams — both of which had strong finishes — will look a little different this season.
The Lady Canes will be without head coach Lenny Zaloga for the first time in nearly 35 years. The former coach amassed over 500 career victories but was not asked back after last season. According to Athletic Director Kathy Masterson, Jackie Reed, the boys coach for the last 11 years, will be leading the girls beginning this season. Reed, a Westhampton alumna, was on the varsity squad from 1996 to 2000, when she set the school record for career digs (654). That marker was surpassed by 2020 graduate Belle Smith in 2017, who went on to accumulate over 2,000 digs. The girls junior varsity coach will be Caitlin Smith, Belle’s older sister who graduated in 2016.
The Lady Canes graduated five seniors at the end of the 2019 season. Returning are senior libero and defensive setter Emma Citarelli, senior right side and middle blocker Ella Donneson, senior outside hitter Jackie Glaser and senior setter Olivia Jayne. Emmie Koszalka, now a junior and who transferred back to Westhampton Beach last season after playing at Chaminade, will also return to play middle and outside hitter. Her older sister, Ava, graduated last year.
Josh Tuttle, Reed’s assistant when she was the boys coach, and who was also the junior varsity coach, returns to lead the Hurricanes this season. Kyle Allan-Moributo has been named the new junior varsity coach.
Westhampton made it to the state tournament in 2019 after winning the first Suffolk County and Long Island titles in program history. Tuttle will be without former junior standout Ryan Barnett, an outside and middle hitter who moved to Florida. Senior outside hitter Hank Scherer and junior outside and middle hitter Daniel Haber return to a Hurricanes team that lost seven standout student-athletes.
Pierson’s girls volleyball team, which also made it to the state tournament, lost two star seniors to graduation in 2020, but be on the lookout for other big-name returners, including senior middle blocker and middle hitter Gylia Dryden and junior middle blocker and outside hitter Grace Brosnan. The Whalers will be looking to defend their 2019 Suffolk County and Long Island titles, but will also be fighting for the title without junior Sofia Mancino, a gritty setter who transferred to St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire.
East Hampton’s girls team fell to Hauppauge in the Suffolk County Class A semifinal last season. Senior outside hitter and defensive specialist Hannah Hartsough, senior middle blocker and right side Lea Mancini, senior middle blocker Amanda Krahe, senior right side Kayla Kearney, junior right side and setter Faith Fenelon, junior setter Brooke Wittmer, junior middle hitter and outside hitter Sorrel Miller and junior right side and setter Anni Spacek are all set to return.
East Hampton’s boys were upset by Hauppauge in the outbrackets last season, losing in five sets. East Hampton graduated 11 seniors, but returns senior outside hitter Luc Campbell and senior libero Tucker Genovesi.