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Senior athletes mourn loss of spring season

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After a decision by school officials across Long Island, it’s game over for spring sports in Seaford and Wantagh for 2020.

Any hopes for even a modified season were dashed April 21, when health and safety concerns led athletic administrators and school superintendents in Nassau and Suffolk counties to announce the cancellation of the spring sports season after reaching a unanimous decision.

“This really is just heartbreaking,” said Seaford High School senior softball player Karyn Schaller. “I want to have those last moments as a senior with my friends and teammates. I will see them again, but it’s not the best situation. At the end of the day, I know the decision is for us, for our health and safety.”

Schaller’s head coach, Thomas Fioriglio, met with his athletic director on April 22. At that point, he was still hoping for a shortened season.

“No one was surprised, but it’s disappointing,” Fioriglio said. “The entire time I was just sending the team updates. We were really just playing a wait-and-see game.”

Seaford’s varsity softball team had come off a semifinals appearance in the county championship tournament in 2019. Fiorillo said the team had set its sights on a county crown in 2020.

Schaller and her teammates learned about the canceled season via social media. “I didn’t want to believe it,” she said. “It’s definitely hard, and there’s always going to be those ‘what ifs,’ but I’ve been lucky to have three years of varsity softball and two years of JV. I have a lot to be grateful for.”

This fall, Schaller will attend Penn State University, where uncertainty looms as well. “My orientation has already been changed to online,” she said. Her move-in date, set for the week of Aug. 20, so far remains the same, though.

Fiorillo thanked his seniors for their dedication. “I would thank them from the bottom of my heart,” he said. “As still a relatively new varsity coach, they made this so easy for me; they are super girls and they are great.”

All-County senior baseball player Sean Tierney was the MacArthur High School Generals’ top position player and hitter this year, according to coach Steve Costello. As a standout football player, he was also an All-Long Island offensive lineman for the Generals.

“I knew it might happen, somewhere in the back of my head, but when it actually happened, my heart just dropped,” Tierney said. “Everyone was so sad about it in our group chat.”

Costello felt optimistic at first that a shorter season remained a possibility. Ultimately, he said, as the weeks passed, he knew the season was less and less likely to happen. “Because this rolled out in kind of slow motion, in some ways it was easier and not as traumatic,” he said.

Tierney said that not being able to see his friends and the teachers he had built bonds with over four years would also be tough. His coach wants to meet one last time, when distancing guidelines permit.

“I want to do that in maybe June or July. I think it could happen,” he said. “I want to thank them for their sacrifice and commitment. I will be there for them for the rest of their lives if need be.”

“For the safety for our student athletes, Section VIII has made the difficult decision to cancel spring sports for our high schools and middle schools,” Nassau County Section VIII Executive Director Pat Pizzarelli said. “Long Island is one of the areas most affected by this terrible pandemic, so both Section VIII [Nassau] and Section XI [Suffolk] have made this very difficult decision.”

Administrators in both counties met over a 24-hour span beginning April 20 and thought it was important to react quickly. Even if public schools were to reopen, no sporting events will be held. A week earlier, Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended New York State’s stay-at-home policies through May 15; school buildings will be closed at least until then.