As they left the field for captains’ practice Tuesday, members of the St. Croix Prep boys’ soccer team were eager to check social media for updates to see if they would play this fall.
With so much uncertainty during the pandemic, senior Chase Hoff thought what if they couldn’t build on last year’s historic run at all?
The Stillwater charter school reached the state tournament for the first time in any sport last fall when boys’ soccer made the Class 1A quarterfinals.
“It would’ve been heartbreaking if the season got canceled,” Hoff said before checking his phone.
Fortunately for athletes in soccer and three other fall sports, the Minnesota State High School League on Tuesday approved ways for their seasons to get started on time this month.
Boys’ and girls’ soccer and cross-country, along with girls’ tennis and girls’ swimming and diving, were approved to start with practices scheduled for Aug. 17. The number of events and games will be limited.
For soccer, the league approved a 20% shorter season and 30% reduction in games, limiting teams to one or two games per week. How the postseason will be played will be determined later.
“I’m not even that upset with a reduced schedule,” said senior Ryan Johnson, who scored the game-winner against Hill-Murray last year in the Section 4 final. “The past six months have been so life-changing for everyone. To get back to some sort of normal school activity with our friends would be amazing. I’ve missed this so much.”
St. Croix Prep activities director Rich Dippel met with his head coaches Tuesday on a video conference call. He plans to get together with the Skyline Conference ADs on Thursday to figure out reduced and localized scheduling for fall sports.
“From my perspective it was a good move by the league,” Dippel said. “There was a lot of time, effort and a lot of smart conversations before the decisions were made. It’s hard sometimes for people looking in from the outside. We bring different lenses to the conversation. I’m a baseball coach, too. When I put that hat on, I see things differently than I do as an AD.”
The most difficult decisions were for football and volleyball being moved to the spring.
Dippel said his school’s synthetic turf field should make it easier to deal with winter weather conditions if necessary. They have been able to use a snowplow on the field in the past.
“It’ll be interesting to see what time frame they put around the football schedules,” he said. “The greater concern is where is the pandemic at that point. Are we ahead of it? Have we flattened the curve out and pushed the numbers down, so we can continue to actually play?”
The St. Croix Prep soccer teams won’t have to compete for field time with football when school starts next month. For the boys’ team, several players return from last year’s 16-4 state tournament team that went undefeated in the Skyline Conference.
“Pretty much every week this summer we were asking [coach Matt Carlson] when we could play,” Hoff said. “It’s good that we can be out here, but it’s also a risk.”