Bella Dickinson and her Scarborough softball teammates won’t have a chance to win another championship this spring, as the season has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. File photos

We won’t get to find out if Mike D’Andrea could tap into his unique brand of coaching magic and lead Falmouth’s baseball team to a state title, if Derek Soule could pencil the right players into the right places for Greely to make its usual deep playoff run, or if a loaded South Portland squad could take the final step and win an elusive crown.

We won’t get to find out if Scarborough’s juggernaut softball team could extend its mind-boggling regular season win streak of 105 games, its overall win streak of 60 games or its run of three straight Class A state titles.

We won’t get to find out if Falmouth’s boys’ lacrosse team could avenge last year’s agonizing, controversial state game loss and ascend to the top of the Class A mountain for the first time, if Greely could finally win the trophy it fell one-goal shy of receiving two years running, if Yarmouth could repeat under a new coach or if Waynflete and North Yarmouth Academy could finally square off in the state final.

We won’t get to find out if longtime Waynflete girls’ lacrosse coach Cathie Connors could earn the four victories she needs to become a 300-game winner, if Falmouth could make it three championships in a row, if Yarmouth could finally solve Cape Elizabeth in the state final or if the Capers and their human highlight reel, senior Karli Chapin, had one final dose of late-game heroics up their sleeve.

We won’t get to find out if the likes of Victoria Bossong and Jarett Flaker could set, or re-set records on the track.

And we won’t get to find out if Waynflete’s boys’ tennis team could make it a baker’s dozen worth of consecutive titles, or if Falmouth’s girls’ squad could return to the pinnacle.

All of the what-might-have-beens of the spring sports season were dashed Thursday afternoon when the Maine Principals’ Association made the anticipated but difficult decision to cancel the upcoming campaign due to the COVID-19 virus and the precautions pertaining to the pandemic.

“Please know that this was not a decision that was taken lightly, but one that the leadership at the MPA felt necessary to help support the recommendations from our Governor’s office, the Maine (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), and Commissioner (Pender) Makin and the Department of Education, that schools across the state not come back in session and provide remote and distance learning opportunities for the remainder of the school year,” MPA Executive Director Mike Burnham said, in an email distributed to the media.

“We understand the importance that these athletic and performing arts play in the lives of students, their families and their communities, but also recognize that these education-based activities are part of the overall educational experience and at this time of uncertainty to adhere with the recommendations of staying at home, maintaining social distancing and avoiding face-to-face instruction and large group gatherings is crucial for us to persevere.”

Maine, which is the first New England state to cancel spring sports, joins the following states to do so: Wyoming, California, Georgia, Alaska, Oklahoma, Colorado, Michigan, Virginia, New Mexico, South Dakota and Arizona.

Shocking, but not surprising

Maine’s high school spring sports season was originally set to begin March 23 with baseball and softball’s pitchers and catchers reporting, then other athletes getting underway March 30.

Those plans were scuttled in mid-March, when the start of the season was pushed back to April 27, then eventually to May 4, with the hopes of salvaging some kind of schedule.

In recent days, however, it became clear that we’re a long way to returning to normal and after the Maine Department of Education recommended the end of classroom learning for the year Tuesday night, the die was cast.

Thursday’s announcement, although expected, was still met with heartache.

“As sad as I am about all of this, I believe it is the right decision,” said Connors, who first coached the Flyers in 1993. “I’m so sad not to be able to spend every afternoon with the girls and I am sad to miss a season coaching my own daughter (sophomore Jesse Connors).”

“Even though it was expected, to get the actual news was hard,” said Soule, who was poised to begin his 21st season with Greely. “We all have to realize that we’re making sacrifices to help save lives. That might be the only silver lining in this.”

“It’s a tough time,” D’Andrea said. “It’s difficult on many levels. A lot of kids are hurting. This is affecting the whole world and we have to do our part to keep people safe.”

“The decision was inevitable, but gut-wrenching nonetheless,” said Falmouth boys’ lacrosse coach Dave Barton.

“It’s a sad day for sure,” added Falmouth’s girls’ lacrosse coach Ashley Pullen, who led the Yachtsmen to the Class A state crown in each of her first two seasons. “I think I’m still in denial. As much as we knew it was coming, it’s hard to believe that on beautiful, sunny May and June afternoons, we won’t be out on the field.”

Sympathy for the Class of 2020

Waynflete’s boys’ tennis team will have to wait a year to chase a 13th consecutive Class C championship.

In addition to disappointment, the recurring theme Thursday was compassion for the senior student-athletes, who not only will be deprived of playing their sport this spring, but who will likely also have to miss out on proms and graduations, or have them delayed.

“Like everyone else, I am so sad for the seniors,” Connors said. “They all have so many expectations about their senior year and so much has changed. We have six very special seniors this year. I am so sad to not be able to be their coach for their final season of high school. It is quite a privilege to be able to coach the seniors’ very last season every year and it is not lost on me how hard this is for senior parents. They thought they had one more season to be able to watch their daughters play.”

“My heart is absolutely broken for the seniors,” Soule said. “For them to lose their spring season is very hard to put into words. I know how much it meant to them and how hard they’ve worked since last summer. Some of our guys have worked their whole baseball lives to have an opportunity to play this year.”

“Senior year is a sacred one and I can’t even imagine what they’re going through, having so many great memories taken away, in the classroom, at school, with classmates and on the field,” said Barton. “When I got the news, I felt compelled to reach out to my seniors directly. They were freshmen, the young pups, when I took over at Falmouth (in 2017) and to see the young men they’ve become in that time has been incredible. They’ve played in some of the most exciting and well-played games in recent memory and I’ll always carry with me the memories we’ve made along the way. Lots of them on the field, but too many to count off of it. I reminded them what they already know. They’re always part of this program, they’re welcome back any time, I’m a better coach for our paths having crossed and that (I) love them more than they’ll ever know.”

“I’m crushed for our seniors,” Pullen added. “They’re an amazing group of young women and it’s a huge loss to have their high school careers cut short. Not only do we lose them, but we lose their mentoring of younger players that they had already started. That’s a ripple effect we’ll really feel.”

Scarborough senior Bella Dickinson, best known for her standout play on the softball diamond in helping the Red Storm win three straight Class A titles in undefeated fashion, said that she feels sadness on a larger scale.

“I’m very sad for all spring sport athletes all across the country,” said Dickinson, who also played in state finals in volleyball and basketball during her time with the Red Storm. “It’s just heartbreaking considering all the work put in by everyone.”

What-if?

Falmouth’s boys’ lacrosse team was hoping to see Thornton Academy in the state final again in June, but won’t have an opportunity to avenge last year’s controversial ouster.

While we’re not sure exactly how spring sports would have played out, rest assured that there would have been highlights galore with an abundance of individual and team champions from Forecaster Country (and likely some bad weather too, if today’s snowstorm is any indication).

“I was excited for the season because we had a good summer (last summer) in the Wooden Bat League,” said Soule. “The only teams that finished ahead of us were Class A powers.”

“The kids were excited to get going and I felt the same,” said D’Andrea, who coached Deering to seven state titles and Scarborough to a surprise crown a year ago. “I knew a lot of them from competing against them and I wanted to help continue the success of the program.”

“I was really looking forward to softball season,” said Falmouth athletic director/softball coach James Coffey. “We had everyone back. I think about boys’ lacrosse and how last season ended (with an overtime loss to Thornton Academy) and them looking to make a statement. Girls’ lacrosse and boys’ tennis were looking to three-peat. Girls’ tennis wanted to make a point (after last year’s regional final loss). Coach D’Andrea’s first baseball season would have been awesome and track always produces.

“(We coaches) just feel badly for the kids, particularly the seniors. We’ve sent emails out to just let them know we’re here for them.”

“(Our) Baseball (team) was probably the favorite on paper,” said South Portland athletic director Todd Livingston. “Coach (Mike) Owens and the players are obviously disappointed, but they have a very bright future.”

“After the winter we had, I felt like we were building some great energy for spring and we were looking forward to it, so I feel sad for the kids and the seniors especially,” said Deering’s first-year athletic director Michael Daly, who was going to also serve as a girls’ lacrosse assistant coach this spring. “I was excited to mentor the new girls’ lacrosse coaches and get them coaching the program they played in. Kids had sticks in their hands even in the winter. They were excited.”

While Dickinson won’t have a senior season, she’s full of appreciation for all of those who made her high school career so memorable and successful.

“Nothing I’ve achieved is without credit to my teammates past and present, coaches and family who have all pushed me and supported me throughout my whole high school journey,” said Dickinson, who will play softball next year at Southern New Hampshire University. “The coaching staff and my teammates are some of the most compassionate, hardworking and dedicated people I know and without them, I wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am today. They consistently showed up for me and I can only hope that they feel I’ve shown up for them in return. I’m so blessed to have achieved some of my biggest goals while playing for Scarborough High School, in the program I’ve grown to love so much, with people I wouldn’t trade for the world.”

An uncertain future

Coaches, athletic directors and certainly the athletes themselves are hopeful there’s an opportunity to start competing again during the summer.

If not then, ideally in the fall, but even that isn’t guaranteed in these uncertain times.

“Everything is on hold indefinitely, but I hope we can do something over the summer,” said D’Andrea, who also owns the Edge Academy baseball and softball training facility. “Edge Academy is doing what it takes to be ready to provide baseball in Maine when the time comes.”

“We’ll find a way to honor our seniors and we hope to have an opportunity to play in the Wooden Bat League this summer,” Soule said. “Normally, seniors don’t play, but I’m hopeful they can.”

Even if life gets back to normal, repercussions will still be felt next spring.

“From a program management standpoint, it’s wild to think about holding tryouts next year and having half of the team, freshmen and sophomores, having never played at the high school level,” said Pullen. “It’s also going to be a whole new ballgame in terms of figuring out which opponents will have strong returners. Who knows what a year off will mean for player development?”

While questions remain, the only certainty is that a distraught group of athletes needs comfort during a painful time.

“We’re brainstorming ways to honor our seniors,” said Pullen, who also serves as a Post-Secondary Counselor and the Civil Rights Team’s Co-Advisor at Falmouth High School. “The counselor in me knows big losses like this mean grieving and a slow healing process. I also know we heal by finding meaning in grief and I encouraged the team to remember that the loss of the season is not meaningless. It’s the ultimate sacrifice we’re all making. If nothing else, experiences like this make us all a little more grateful for what we’ve got.”

“I obviously feel so badly for the seniors, as well as the other student-athletes and coaches,” Livingston said. “Now more than ever, the student-athletes need the coaches’ and administrators’ guidance and support.

“No one could have imagined anything like this.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter:@foresports.

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