PVIAC winter sports season begins for some Thursday

  • Delaney MacPhetres, right, of Amherst Regional, draws a foul from Elizabeth Kopec, of Ludlow, during action last winter. MacPhetres and the Hurricanes open their season Friday night. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 1/20/2021 6:57:26 PM

Three large, industrial air circulators whir in the Amherst Regional gym.

“To the kids’ benefit it makes it so they can’t hear me so good,” Amherst girls basketball coach Ralph Loos said.

The Hurricanes girls basketball team, which changed before arriving at practice, are masked up along with their coaches. They’re entering after a buffer time following the previous team’s session to let the air clear. All of their equipment has been sanitized, and they’ll sanitize it again once practice ends.

“Other than the obvious things it feels relatively normal. At least that’s the mindset I've tired to approach everything with,” Loos said. “I think our AD did a really great job in not only advocating for it to happen but also preparing for it to happen.”

Amherst is one of three area schools beginning indoor winter sports competition starting Thursday, along with Hopkins Academy and Frontier Regional. Some schools have delayed the start of practices until their communities receive a less risky COVID-19 spread designation. Those three schools began practice Monday.

“It’s been great. We had a year almost of not being able to be together as a team,” Amherst junior Delaney MacPhetres said. “We got right back into our rhythm.” 

There will be no postseason, and teams will face schools in their immediate geographic area.

“I’m not going to coach any different. Our expectations are to get better every game and make all the time we spend in the gym worthwhile. There’s no championship at the end of it, but the goal is to try and go undefeated,” Loos said. “When we took over last year, one of the things we tried to get them to do was to hate losing. The program had gotten way too comfortable with being mediocre.”

Amherst only graduated one player: 1,000-point scorer Erin Klaes, and brings back the core of a 15-5 squad that reached last season’s Division 2 semifinal. The Hurricanes open the season Friday at Ludlow.

“We talked about that a lot. We have a lot of smaller goals. This is a good building year to try new things,” MacPhetres said “I think that even though we don’t have playoffs it’s not going to stop how hard we’re working. We all love the sport, so we’re happy to be back.”

Down Route 9, Hopkins Academy typically starts a boys basketball season with the goal of getting to the Cage. The Golden Hawks are happy to be on their home floor in Hadley at all in 2021.

“It’s amazing,” junior guard Andrew Ciaglo said. “We can’t take it for granted.”

Hopkins Academy has social distancing marks on the gym, contact tracing lists for practice attendance and a one-way traffic flow plan as teams enter and leave. No one leaves their vehicles until the coach opens the door for practice.

“We’ve been fortunate because we have good administrative leadership and support,” Hopkins Academy coach Adam Ginsburg said. “They’ve been very detailed and organized and we’ve had supportive and active parents and committed students.”

The Golden Hawks are competing in the Franklin County cohort along with Frontier and other schools this winter. All PVIAC sections have scheduled home and home series among their teams to limit contact. That league begins games Tuesday, when the Golden Hawks visit Pioneer Valley Regional.

“We want to be the best we can be,” Ciaglo said. “We want to go out on a good note for our seniors.”

That scheduling model looks different for ice hockey, where there are only so many rinks available. Amherst doesn’t have access to Amherst College’s Orr Rink, where the Hurricanes typically play their home games, so they will be a nomadic “home” side playing at rinks like Fitzpatrick in Holyoke, the Olympia Ice Center in West Springfield and Greenfield’s Collins-Moylan Arena.

Save masks and separation from other teams for the sake of social distancing, the alpine ski season should resemble a normal year. The PVIAC is hosting one race a week on Thursdays (beginning today) with practices or potential make up dates set for Tuesdays. Only two skiers can ride the chair lift at a time. The 13 teams will remain separate from each other at races to facilitate social distancing.

“Berkshire East has a lot of great protocols,” Northampton alpine coach Mark Koddrell said. “I couldn’t believe the amount they’d invested in the mountain.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.

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