By Danielle Achin
Varsity sports resumed Jan. 31 following a pause because student athletes contracted COVID-19 during semester break.
During the break, both the men’s and women’s basketball teams were forced to reschedule games after members of both teams tested positive for COVID-19.
The men’s team had to reschedule three games, while the women’s team rescheduled two.
Additionally, the Ice Hockey team was required to reschedule games after the majority of the players tested positive after their first game on Jan. 4 against Johnson and Wales.
After classes were moved online for the first two weeks of the semester due to the surge in cases from the Omicron variant, FSU, along with many other universities, has required the booster shot as a condition of returning to campus.
Student athletes returned to campus Jan. 2 and were allowed access to the Athletic Center’s weight room for supervised practices and lifting time.
Athletic Director Thomas Kelley said during the first week of online Zoom classes, the Athletic Center was closed entirely except to varsity athletes.
During the second week on Zoom, residents and student athletes had access to the center by
Kelley said, “From 10 to 1, we were only open to resident students and by appointment, and 1 to 4 was varsity athletes only. We had a working list of residents on campus and cross-checked them off.”
Kelley said since returning to in-person classes beginning Jan. 31, the Athletic Department allowed full access to the weight room and became pretty lenient about checking people in. He said this has been a “smooth process so far.”
Sophomore Jaylen Swan, a small forward on the Men’s Basketball team, said, “Me and my teammates use the gym daily now and it’s helped with having more freedom in the weight room for the athletes on campus.”
Sophomore Madison Skiff, a member of the Women’s Lacrosse team, said, “Sometimes, it gets a little chaotic when everyone is in the gym because of the athlete hours. Otherwise, the lifting of the protocols was really helpful.”
Camille Desrochers, a senior guard on the Women’s Basketball team, said, “While we are in session, we definitely spend more time in the basketball gym rather than the weight room, but it’s still nice to be able to use it for practicing.”
Kelley made it clear that no fans or spectators were allowed to attend games from Jan. 18 to Jan. 31 during the two-week remote learning period.
Assistant Athletic Director Carey Eggen said before Jan. 31, there was weekly testing for all student athletes regardless of vaccination status, but that has changed since then.
“On Jan. 2, we had three active winter teams – Men’s and Women’s Basketball and Ice Hockey. They were testing at minimum once a week – sometimes more depending on the case count. Now, only those who are exempted are testing for those three teams,” Eggen said.
“We usually try and get two or three weeks of testing, and then depending on their vaccination rate, booster rate, COVID cases they’ve had, we will stop asymptomatic testing.”
Eggen said each team’s protocol may be different depending if a student is a resident or not, if they are exempt, what their vaccine status is, or if they are an athlete.
Desroches said the women’s basketball team has switched to bi-weekly testing after the majority of the team tested positive for COVID-19.
Bryan Whelan, a forward on the Ice Hockey team, said, “As of now, if we have the booster and the two vaccines, we don’t have to go and test every week.”
However, with spring sports starting up, weekly testing is going to be required for those athletes until the department says otherwise.
Sophomore Kyra Lyons, a member of the Women’s Lacrosse team, said testing every week is OK because “as long as we can keep playing, we’ll do whatever it takes.”
SkiV said, “If we have to get tested every week, we’ll do it.”
Because student athletes on all three winter sports teams tested positive for COVID-19 in January, games were postponed and practice times changed.
Ashton Collazo, a freshman on the Ice Hockey team, said he was frustrated about having to cancel some games due to COVID-19 exposure during their game on Jan. 3 against Johnson and Wales.
“We were shut down for I believe 12 days and missed four to five games as a result,” Collazo said. “So far, only two have been rescheduled and two of our later games in the season that were out of conference were canceled in order to have room to make up in-conference games.”
While Ice Hockey struggles to reschedule games in order to catch up in the MASCAC League, senior Krysta Padellaro, a guard on the Women’s Basketball team, said their postponed games have been rescheduled.
She said at least three games were canceled due to COVID-19 cases on her team. “We practiced all throughout winter break. We had one week off right after Christmas because of the cases on our team, but since then, we’ve been cleared and there was no problem rescheduling them!
“But it did result in playing three games a week instead of two for a few weeks, which was definitely exhausting,” she added.
Swan said his team had several positive COVID-19 cases and only had to reschedule two games.
Sophomore Liz Dollard, a member of the Women’s Lacrosse team, said team practices Monday through Saturday for their upcoming season. Despite beginning their first week of practice, she said the team has learned to expect the unexpected.
“We had our first week of practice which is new for us. We don’t usually have one this quick, but we don’t have our spring break schedule yet, so that’s still up in the air if we’re going. We’re just assuming everything is up in the air. Nothing is definite right now,” she said.
With the required testing in place at FSU, many student athletes are confident about how the school is handling it’s response to COVID-19.
Collazo said, “As players, we take things day by day, and if some outside force decides COVID has gotten too bad and shuts us down, then it becomes time to prep for the next year because obviously, there is a lot of room for improvement from last season.”
Desroches and Swan acknowledged everyone has been cooperative in order to protect the health and safety of students and faculty.
“It’s nice to see the case numbers continue to go down. I think we all now are willing to do whatever it takes to not have that happen again,” Desroches said.
Swan added, “The school and athletic teams are doing their best to have everyone follow protocols. I have faith everything will be running smoothly.”
Padellaro said, “We all followed the vaccine protocol and wear our masks for practice and only take them off when we’re allowed to for games. I don’t feel there is concern for things getting shut down again.”
Whelan said as long as everyone follows protocols, there will be no problem having a successful season.
“I’m not too concerned because the protocols are not difficult to follow,” he said.
However, women on the Lacrosse team said they were concerned for yet another possible season stripped away from them.
Dollard said, “Just knowing people are testing definitely makes us feel better about having a season.”
Students are walking the streets of Framingham State once again, many of them decked out in their uniforms ready to represent FSU athletics.