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‘I didn’t realize how much I missed it’: Carroll County fall sports teams make most of first day of practice despite winter challenges

Pointing out patches of ice isn’t a conversation piece associated with the first day of practice for fall high school sports. Then again, normal might as well be a dirty word when it comes to putting a season together during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Carroll County’s fall athletes and coaches met Saturday for the first time, marking the official start of the 2020 fall season in February 2021. That meant cross country, field hockey, football, golf, soccer, and volleyball figuring out a way to practice with morning temperatures failing to reach 30 degrees and some areas of Carroll seeing wintry precipitation.

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Quite the difference from the traditional mid-August start, when temps tend to hover in the 90s and everyone tries to stay cool. Instead, those who ventured outside (volleyball gets the seasonal luxury of being in the gym) did their best to stay warm.

“It felt amazing,” said Ryan Barnard, a junior quarterback at South Carroll who spent time after the football team’s morning parking-lot workout to run pass patterns with a handful of teammates on the somewhat slippery asphalt.

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“We’ve been indoors and all for a long time, so it felt good to get outside and do something,” Barnard said, his hands almost as red as the jersey that covered his layers of warm clothes. “It wasn’t much, but still a good bit. During the games you need that timing ... that’s important for winning games.”

Head volleyball coach Bryan Trumbo serves to his players while conducting the team's first practice at Century High School on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021.
Head volleyball coach Bryan Trumbo serves to his players while conducting the team's first practice at Century High School on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

Five county teams won fall state championships in 2019 — Century boys soccer and Century volleyball, Liberty girls cross country and Liberty field hockey, and Westminster field hockey. There aren’t any plans for regional or state playoffs, per the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association’s return-to-play guidelines.

But that doesn’t mean fall athletes and coaches are taking the next two months lightly, with the first football games set for March 5, some cross country action on March 6, field hockey on March 8, and soccer and volleyball on March 9. Golf matches are slated to begin March 16.

Junior quarterback Ryan Barnard looks to a teammate to throw to, as players run a few drill following the freezing temperature shortened football practice in the parking lot at South Carroll High School on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021.
Junior quarterback Ryan Barnard looks to a teammate to throw to, as players run a few drill following the freezing temperature shortened football practice in the parking lot at South Carroll High School on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

Carroll’s field hockey teams are planning to have their games take place at Western Regional Park in Howard County in an effort to use the venue’s artificial playing surfaces and maintain Carroll’s fields — all of which remain snow-covered winter landscapes.

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Century’s volleyball team got together 455 days since winning the 2019 Class 2A state title at University of Maryland’s Ritchie Coliseum. That Knights team had a core of senior leaders that has since graduated, and other contributors are gone because of transferring or COVID-related concerns.

Century coach Bryan Trumbo said he felt a big difference on the first day of practice, and only in part because everyone inside wore masks and stayed socially distant when not simulating match-like conditions.

Trumbo said he and his assistant got Century’s gymnasium set up Friday night and had to remind himself that what he was doing usually occurred in the middle of summer.

“It kind of took me back a little bit to club season,” Trumbo said after his team practiced Saturday morning. “Seeing the girls walk in the gym, all those feelings of ... ‘Oh my gosh, I didn’t realize how much I missed it,’ came back.”

Junior Eva Brandt spikes the ball past teammates as Century's volleyball team practices at the school on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021.
Junior Eva Brandt spikes the ball past teammates as Century's volleyball team practices at the school on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

Junior hitter Eva Brandt, one of the few returning players from the Knights’ state championship squad, shared her coach’s sentiments. Brandt was at Century on Friday night finishing the varsity basketball season, but wasn’t about to use that as an excuse to feel weary some 12 hours later.

“It was so nice to get back on the court,” Brandt said. “After the season we had last year, and I knew we had potential coming back, I was super excited for this season. Especially with some of the girls who I’ve been playing with since club. ... Just getting the chance to play, even if it’s shorter, is still something that I’m super excited about.”

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