On Oct. 5 the Mercyhurst athletics teams began phase four of the five-part COVID reintegration plan. The changes to the way practices will be held will now al-low players to demonstrate physical toughness on the field.
Ever since fall sports lost their seasons, athletes have been anxious to return to normal competition. Now moving into phase four, physical contact at practice is allowed to resume while masks are being worn. Student-athletes will also be allowed to remove their masks when properly social distanced during play or drills.
For sports such as soccer that rely heavily on close-contact plays, the movement to phase four is a major stepping-stone that athletes have been looking forward to for some time.
Student-athletes have continued to express their excitement for the advancements in their ability to practice. “It’s been really awkward having to stay six feet apart from each other playing soccer,” Lauren Casey of the Women’s soccer team said.
Amata Valentini of the Women’s soccer team also shared her thoughts on moving to phase four.
“I’m just excited to really be able to play soccer again,” said Valentini. “I think our team has done a good job of getting to this point.”
A large amount of credit is due to the student-athletes that have been willing to work with the regulations that have been in place. Teammates have had to hold each other accountable and make sure no one was putting the team at risk. The responsibility of stu-dent-athletes at Mercyhurst leading up to phase four is a testament to the teams’ desire to play and have spring seasons.
Phase four can only be sustained if athletes continue be smart about mask-wearing, social distancing and sanitation. Athletes no longer have to receive wristbands before training in this phase.
“I am excited to keep working and take everything day by day,” said Kenzie Schroeder of the Women’s lacrosse team.
So far, most COVID-19 cases have been contracted off campus. Because of this, the Athletic Department strongly cautions against off-campus travel, especially for athletes.
Mercyhurst Prep High School had a regular-season game on Saxon field last weekend which in many ways motivated Mercyhurst University athletes more to have the game that never came this fall.
Mercyhurst students have also expressed how much they miss being able to watch the athletic games on campus. Being able to cheer for their friends and family at live sporting events is a staple of the Mercyhurst experience.
Although phase four does not yet allow games or spectators, it is one step closer to reopening the gates.
Coaches are just as thrilled about phase four as the athletes are. Not only can they plan drills that mimic the actual sport, coaches get to see how their players react to physical play in a game. Coaches now have the ability to witness and develop team chemistry, and see how athletes will fit into their team’s structure.
The Mercyhurst athletics department moving to phase four is a big moment for contact sports returning to regular play, and the cooperation of all those involved increases the probability of getting to phase five.