After delaying the fall sports season to the designated Fall II due to COVID-19 concerns, Old Rochester Regional High School is back to hosting interscholastic athletics. The Bulldogs’ winter teams have held tryouts and started holding practices ahead of the designated start of the 2020-21 South Coast Conference sports calendar, which begins on January 5.
While Old Rochester sports schedules typically include some non-league competition, all Bulldogs winter contests will be SCC meetings. The lone exclusion is girls ice hockey, which participates in a different conference.
“The athletic directors from the conference have been phenomenal at working together throughout this,” Old Rochester Athletic Director Bill Tilden said. “The reason that we wanted to play within our conference is that we’re all playing by the same rules, and that was easier and safer to do if we just rolled all of our direction together.”
Both boys and girls basketball teams will play a nine-game regular season. There will be a postseason for Bulldogs basketball, but not in the same manner perennial Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) tournament contenders are used to. There will be SCC playoffs, which will last three rounds. However, there will be no state tournament for the 2020-21 winter season.
“Our goals have always been to compete and get better every day, to win the South Coast Conference, to qualify for the state tournament and make a good showing,” Old Rochester boys basketball coach Steve Carvalho said. “Some of that is still out there. As a coach, I just want to give these kids— some of them have missed the (2019-20) spring season [so] hopefully they have the Fall II season— I want to give them the best overall experience. But I also don’t want to take away from the competitive nature of showing our best face on a nightly basis.”
For Old Rochester girls basketball, this is an even stranger time with Rick Regan taking over as head coach following the end of Bob Hohne’s long, successful run with the program.
“We just have to adjust based upon current guidelines with COVID and how we’re doing things, but we want to continue to try to build,” Regan said. “The big thing is, there’s a good foundation here, and what we want to do is build on that. The key thing for us moving forward is getting more girls involved in the program because the numbers are a little bit lower right now, and COVID, I think, is playing a part in that, as well.
“It’s always, when you take over, a good three- to five-year process to get everything you want done and everything in. So, in that time, what we need to do is to build the program from the lower levels up. And that’s going to be my job, that’s what I have to do.”
On top of the abbreviated schedule, Old Rochester players and coaches need to stick to the guidelines established by the school to remain healthy. Otherwise, they risk the suspension of play, which could cost their team the season.
“I think everyone is being a lot more mindful now because there’s a lot more to lose if you have to quarantine,” said Meghan Horan, the lone senior in ORR’s girls program. “It’s not like you’re just quarantining from school. Now you would be missing sports— and I think everyone understands that— and they don’t want to be the person … to affect so many people.”
The winter regular season concludes on February 2, and the SCC postseason will conclude by February 12. MIAA has set March 9 as the start date for the Fall II season.
By Nick Friar