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Carroll Community College fall sports landscape to have different look in Year 2 due to pandemic

Members of the mens soccer team salute their fans following their 6-3 win over Hagerstown at Carroll Community College on Tuesday, August 27. The game against Hagerstown was the first official athletics contest in the history of the school.
Members of the mens soccer team salute their fans following their 6-3 win over Hagerstown at Carroll Community College on Tuesday, August 27. The game against Hagerstown was the first official athletics contest in the history of the school. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

Carroll Community College fielded two teams last fall in its inaugural season of athletics, but Year 2 is already shaping up to have a much different look because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Lynx, who had men’s soccer and men’s cross country last year, will be part of the National Junior College Athletic Association’s adjusted “plan of action” that is moving the majority of fall sports to the spring semester.

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Carroll plays in the Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference, and the school is a member of the NJCAA. Cross country is staying on schedule to compete this fall, according to the NJCAA’s ruling.

All close-contact fall sports will shift seasons, with only cross country and women’s tennis championships remaining on their originally scheduled dates this fall. Also, the start of the winter competition season has been pushed back to January.

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“I believe it was the correct thing to do,” Carroll athletic director Bill Kelvey said in an email. “There are many issues to consider such as transportation, daily health checks, game safety (players, coaches, staff, officials), and the possibility of the season ending at any time due to the virus. Hopefully, this will allow more time for a vaccine or treatments that will allow a healthy return to athletics in the spring.”

Kelvey said finding cross country meets this fall could be a challenge. Many of them bring together colleges from different NCAA divisions and conferences, and Kelvey said several meets that were on Carroll’s 2019 schedule have already been canceled this year, or limited to conference members only.

Carroll took third at the MD JUCO Championships last November in its first appearance. Dan Saxon finished second at the meet, with Jason Cave (sixth) and Taylor Russell (seventh) also placing in the top 10.

From left, Carroll Community College men's cross country members Taylor Russell, Josh Henderson, Riley Bates, Chris Smith, Dan Saxon, and Jason Cave.
From left, Carroll Community College men's cross country members Taylor Russell, Josh Henderson, Riley Bates, Chris Smith, Dan Saxon, and Jason Cave. (Courtesy photo)

Carroll didn’t field a women’s soccer team last year, but was planning to do so this fall.

Meanwhile, the Lynx men’s soccer team finished 5-9 (4-7 MD JUCO) in its first season. Kaleb Lippy led Carroll in scoring and earned second-team all-MD JUCO honors, while Nik Haldorsen received honorable mention status.

Carroll won’t be able to build upon that progress until next spring, however.

Kelvey said the soccer season is scheduled to start practicing March 15, with games starting April 3. Carroll is slated to add lacrosse and track and field teams in 2021, and Kelvey said those sports will maintain their normal spring schedule.

“We will be working on protocols to keep athletes, coaches, and staff as safe as possible,” he said. “Obviously, everything is subject to change dependent on state and local mandates.”

Erin Foley, director of athletics at Howard Community College, said that until the last week she had been hopeful a fall season was going to be possible.

“Honestly I was feeling good in June through that first week of July. Seeing things in Maryland getting better, things reopening … I felt like we might actually be able to make it work,” Foley said. “But then the last week or so, as things have started changing again across the country, it became obvious that we were going to have to shift gears. It’s been a very fluid process.”

NJCAA Region XX features 23 schools, the majority of which are in the Baltimore metropolitan area, and spans three states.

Foley said there are ongoing talks about creating an adjusted cross country schedule in an effort to provide athletes with enough opportunities to secure postseason qualifying times.

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“While the NJCAA has announced that the cross country championships are still being held this fall, there are still a lot of considerations in play. It’s going to take some real coordinating between the Region XX schools to see if we can figure this out together,” she said.

The NJCAA has a July 27 deadline for colleges to notify the national office with its intentions in terms of athletic competition for the 2020-21 academic year. Should individual cross country programs, for example, decide not to continue with the fall season, they would have to do so within the next two weeks.

Considerations were given toward moving cross country to the spring, but Foley said concerns about overlap with indoor and outdoor track played a role in the decision to keep it in the fall. Cross country and Division III women’s tennis teams are permitted to start practicing Aug. 1.

Under the current plan, while there will be no competition, the other NJCAA fall sports teams are still permitted 60 consecutive calendar days for practice and scrimmages from Aug. 15 to Nov. 15. Whether each program uses those practice and scrimmage opportunities is up to each institution and the regulations in place in their respective states.

BSMG reporter Brent Kennedy contributed to this article.

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