COVID keeps multiple Montclair sports teams from winter play
By ANDREW GARDA
Multiple Montclair sports teams are seeing their schedules interrupted because of the local and national surge of coronavirus cases.
The same surge has several public and private schools in New Jersey returning from their winter breaks with remote instruction. Montclair held remote-only instruction for high schoolers on the two days before break, and this week gave families the option of 10 days of remote schooling as well.
Positive cases involving the Mountie wrestling, girls and boys basketball teams had those groups shut down for nearly the entirety of their winter breaks. The wrestling team cancelled matches and a tournament appearance even before the break, and both girls and boys basketball teams withdrew from holiday tournaments.
MHS athletics director Patrick Scarpello said last week some cancellations have been due to positive coronavirus cases on the Montclair teams; others were because of positive cases among the opposition. They're part of a surge that extends well beyond Montclair, but has the township's daily case counts 30 to 40 times as high as they were in early November.
There had been a return to relative normalcy during fall sports, with county and full state tournaments executed with few to no problems and an easing of restrictions previously put in place due to the pandemic. The hope was that winter sports would see the same results.
While tournaments are still scheduled and some restrictions — such as an earlier prohibition on fans at indoor games — have been removed, the rise in cases has prevented a complete return to business as usual.
The boys basketball team has not had a game yet, with its first match on Jan. 8, against Newark’s East Side High School at home. The girls' first game will be on Thursday, Jan 6, at home against Central High School.
There were no games scheduled for MHS hockey, fencing, swimming or bowling over the break. The 0-6 hockey team was set to try for its first win against Summit on Tuesday, Jan 4 while on the road.
The fencing team had been scheduled Jan. 4 for a match against rival Montclair Kimberley Academy, but that was cancelled, as MKA cancelled all sporting events for this week, though the private school hasn’t issued an announcement with a reason. The MHS fencers next face Governor Livingston High School at home on Tuesday, Jan. 11.
The swim teams face Livingston at Montclair State University — their home pool — on Jan. 7 while bowling was set to resume action on Tuesday, Jan. 4 against Bloomfield.
The cancellations and COVID issues meant Scarpello had to work continuously to re-arrange schedules and make sure student-athletes were protected, while having the chance to compete if possible, he said.
Montclair Kimberley Academy didn't have any basketball games scheduled at all over break, though originally the boys were scheduled to play in the Prep Holiday Tournament at Oratory. The tournament was canceled.
MKA's undefeated (4-0-1) hockey team also had no games scheduled.
All games scheduled for any sport this week have been canceled,
Immaculate Conception High School only fields a pair of winter teams — boys and girls basketball — and they were in action during the break, with the boys losing to Hackensack on the road New Years Eve by a score of 66-57 before watching a 32-26 halftime lead melt into a 65-56 loss to Seton Hall Prep on Jan 2 in the Hackensack Showcase. Their next scheduled game is at Ramapo on Jan. 8.
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The girls team was idle over the break and was set to resume action with a home game against West Orange on Tuesday, Jan. 4.
As the 2022 portion of the winter season kicks off, no new restrictions or protocols have yet been announced. Fans were still allowed in buildings for home games, though under an pre-existing restriction, they couldn’t attend indoor away games. Masks are still required in buildings, and fans are asked to try and stay six feet apart when possible.
Scarpello and MKA athletic director Todd Smith have not yet returned messages sent Monday and over the break asking for information on any possible new restrictions.