Last spring, Alyssa Daley was just one of the Middletown girls lacrosse players harboring realistic dreams that the program could capture its first state championship.
Then, the coronavirus pandemic struck last March, and those dreams, much like the entire spring season, evaporated into the warming and highly contagious air.
Even when spring sports returned May 7, there was no guarantee that the various seasons would end with anything more than in-county competition. Even though each passing day brought measurable improvement with the number of vaccinations and key coronavirus metrics, the opportunity to compete in the playoffs was not certain.
So, seniors like Daley were left to wait and wonder if they’d ever get their shot at state-championship glory.
That’s why Wednesday morning’s announcement the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association voted overwhelmingly at its Board of Control Meeting to reinstate state postseason competition for all sports. It was another step closer to normalcy.
“Being our senior year and not knowing what the future holds, being able to play together in the playoffs takes priority over everything else,” Daley said in a phone interview. “Getting to states and winning a state title would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Though every team and every school system in the state have the option to opt-out of the playoffs, Frederick County Public Schools supervisor of athletics and extracurricular activities Kevin Kendro said that every team in the county intends to participate in every sport.
The spring season consists of baseball, softball, boys and girls lacrosse, boys and girls tennis and boys and girls track and field.
Kendro couldn’t say with certainty that every team across the state planned to participate. But he got the sense after casting his vote at the Board of Control meeting that every school system would be represented.
The recently completed winter and fall sports seasons were conducted strictly with in-county play, and there was no postseason. Logistical planning and coronavirus metrics wouldn’t allow it. However, unlike the spring season, the fall and winter seasons were completed, almost entirely, last school year before the pandemic struck.
With restrictions being lifted and with close to 70 percent of the eligible population in Maryland receiving at least one dose of the vaccine, the MPSSAA felt comfortable moving forward with spring playoffs.
“In a few weeks, we’ll be conducting state tournaments,” Kendro said in a phone interview following the meeting. “It will look different. But this entire year has been different.”
The entire spring postseason will be condensed into a two-week period, beginning June 5 and ending June 19, which was the predetermined end of the spring season prior to Wednesday’s vote for the return of playoffs.
Typically, the spring season starts in the latter stages of March and ends on Memorial Day weekend.
“It’s going to be a quick turnaround. The temperatures are going to be higher. It’s going to take some planning and strategy around that,” Middletown girls lacrosse coach Tyler White said.
Like normal times, it will be open playoffs, meaning that every team will qualify, and every athlete has the chance to participate in the individual sports. The MPSSAA said that all regular-season records through June 3 will be counted toward the regional seeding for baseball, softball and boys and girls lacrosse, and there is no minimum number of games to qualify.
Unlike normal times, teams and athletes will have the option to compete up until the June 19 date, even if they are eliminated from the playoffs and state-championship contention.
“Our coaches and athletic directors are working on that now,” Kendro said of scheduling contingency games.
Sectional competition for track and field and tennis will take place between June 5-10 with regional championships to follow from June 12-15. The state championships for track and tennis will take place on June 18-19.
The regional tournaments for baseball, softball and lacrosse will take place from June 7-12.
For lacrosse, the state quarterfinals are scheduled for June 14, the state semifinals will take place on June 16 and the state finals are slated for June 18-19.
For baseball and softball, the state quarterfinals will be played June 14, the state semifinals on June 16 and the state finals on June 18.
Up until the state finals for the team sports, games will be played at the site of the higher-seeded team.
The baseball state finals will be played at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf, the softball state finals at their traditional site at Bachman Sports Complex in Glen Burnie and the lacrosse state finals will be at their usual site at Loyola University’s Ridley Athletic Complex.
The state tennis semifinals and finals will take place at the Wilde Lake Tennis Club in Columbia, and the state track and field championships are scheduled for the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex in Landover, which is typically home to the state indoor meet.
Senior athletes will be faced with the choice of competing for their teams or their schools or attending Senior Week in Ocean City following graduation.
Several coaches in Frederick County had said they had already discussed this with their athletes prior to Wednesday’s vote.
For the Middletown girls lacrosse team, the choice is clear. All of the seniors on the team plan to compete in the playoffs.
“The beach will always be there,” Daley said.