UVM varsity sports to resume play starting next month

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Oliver Pomazi

The men’s basketball team huddles together before a game in February 2017.

UVM fall and winter sports teams will soon return to gameplay after season resumption plans were announced by America East, ending indefinite season delays due to the pandemic. 

America East, which consists of eight schools across the Northeast including UVM, announced the conference’s resumption plans Oct. 19. The plans focus on maintaining competitive play while still ensuring student-athlete and community health and safety. 

UVM Athletic Director Jeff Schulman said the announcement from America East is a step forward in getting UVM teams back to competition.

“Catamount student-athletes, coaches and staff have done an amazing job working through a very intentional, three-phased, sport re-socialization process in preparation for the resumption of team activity,” Schulman stated in an Oct. 19 statement. 

Outlining resumption timelines for fall and winter sports, the plans allow the basketball teams to start non-conference play in less than a month, and delay fall sports seasons to the spring, beginning in February and early March. 

Additionally, the swimming and diving regular season has been postponed to the spring. 

At UVM, no spectators will be allowed at games until further notice in order to protect the health and safety of the student-athletes, coaches and broader community, according to Schulman.

However, games will be offered through live stream for the general public to watch. 

Schulman said all resumption planning has been coordinated through the UVM Health and Safety Committee and the Vermont Department of Health. 

UVM players and their opponents will be tested three times per week and will operate in ‘mini-bubbles’ for out of state games, where athletes will not be allowed close contact with anyone other than opponents and game officials who are also following NCAA’s COVID-19 testing protocol. 

According to the America East website, men’s and women’s basketball will have a full double round-robin schedule with 18 conference games. 

Last year, the men’s basketball team played 35 games in total and the women’s team played 30.

The schedule will include weekend series where a team hosts the same opponent on back-to-back days for two games.

Hockey East has not released an official plan yet, but Athletic Director Jeff Schulman said scheduling work is underway for Hockey East and the skiing conference EISA. 

Basketball has been cleared to start non-conference play Nov. 25 and conference play Dec. 19. 

However, Stef Smith, senior guard on the UVM Men’s Basketball team, said the team has not implemented any changes to start practicing as a full team with the release of these dates and is still practicing in smaller pods. 

“We’re not changing our practices based on if we’re going to play non-conference games in November or conference games in January,” Smith said.

However, Smith said he is optimistic about the coming season despite the pandemic’s unpredictability and said the team is still preparing for the season like they would any other year. 

“I think it’s important to stay positive,” Smith said. “I think our team has done a great job with that. It’s also reassuring with the NCAA coming out with all of this new information.”

Men’s hockey Head Coach Todd Woodcroft also expressed his optimism about a season during an interview on September 29. 

“I feel very confident that we’ll have a season based on the success we saw with the NHL,” Woodcroft said.  We’re competitive people, we want to play games, and it’s coming up real soon.”