Horizon League athletics take hiatus

Youngstown State sports doesn’t play until October

The Horizon League called a time out Thursday. Sports, as far as competition goes, is on hold until Oct. 1. That includes exhibitions, league and non-league contests.

That impacts every Youngstown State University sport except for football (Missouri Valley Football Conference), women’s lacrosse (Mid-American Conference) and women’s bowling (Southland Bowling League).

The Horizon League’s Council stated it will monitor further developments related to the COVID-19 outbreak and evaluate fall schedules — knowing there may be future changes.

The MAC followed the Horizon League’s lead on Thursday by delaying the start of the fall Olympic sports season until Sept. 3 — field hockey, soccer, women’s volleyball and cross country.

“Because of the escalation of the virus nationally, we didn’t think it was smart to bring them back to campus real early, not knowing what the future of fall sports are, and allow them to stay in the bubble they’re in and continue to work their summer jobs or stay with their internships,” YSU Executive Director of Athletics Ron Strollo said of the Horizon League. “It doesn’t necessarily affect the kids that are here or our ability, if we wanted to, to bring kids in and practice. We can still do that. It’s just competition. More than likely, for the majority of our fall sports, everyone is probably going to come back at the start of school.”

Cross country, women’s soccer, tennis and golf have scheduled competition during August and September. That has been put on hold.

Cross country coach Brian Gorby said student-athletes return to campus when school starts in the fall on Aug. 17 and will practice through Oct. 1.

If the league allows competition starting in October, the Penguins will have a three-to-four week season, likely against Horizon opponents, leading up the Horizon League Championships Oct. 31 in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

That, like everything in the world of the COVID-19 pandemic, is ever changing.

“Situation is fluid,” Gorby said.

YSU women’s soccer coach Brian Shrum said his team will benefit from the extra time to prepare, something the Penguins or any college soccer team normally doesn’t have prior to a normal season.

“That’s the consensus over the years,” Shrum said. “How can we have more of a ramp to build up? They come in on a Monday and within eight to 10 days you’re playing your first scrimmage and right into your season. That has been a criticism in women’s soccer. Absolutely, this is going to help in terms of acclimating the freshmen and having the team play a little bit before they can get into their first competition.”

It’s just going to shortchange the team’s six seniors, not being able to play a full season, Shrum said.

“The kids you feel for are the seniors,” he said. “They’re always looking for preparing for the normal season. Now their season doesn’t look the same. There’s a lot of uncertainty. You can imagine the trepidation they’re dealing with.”

There’s been nothing definite in terms of postseason play. The one thing that is certain is taking care of student-athletes, especially those from out of state that came back to campus and had to quarantine as a precaution.

“I think until we get a vaccine, it’s safe to say we’ll always have some student-athletes in some different level of quarantine, whether they’re travelled out of the state or returned, or they might not be feeling great and showing some symptoms, or they might have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID,” Strollo said. “There’s a variety of reasons and variety of time periods from 48 hours to two weeks. It’s safe to say, as we get more student-athletes back here, as the college campus wakes back up and has students, the likelihood we’ll have kids in the quarantine or kids testing positive will continue until we have a vaccine.”

Delays, testing and cancelations — it’s a level of uncertainty sports continually faces going forward. YSU has only dealt with the first two this upcoming season.


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