By the end of October, the COVID-19 shadows were gathering. It started in Cortland County with Cortland and Homer teams sidelined for weeks due to an outbreak of the virus in that county. Then it went north, to the Frontier League, where Beaver River had several positive tests which all but shut down the fall sports teams up there in Lewis County. Once that took place, three other Frontier League schools still playing their seasons – Lowville, Copenhagen and South Lewis – decided to nix the remaining week and a half of their schedules, all of them hoping to make up those soccer and cross country contests with other Frontier League schools that opted to go to Fall Sports Season II in March and April.
Onondaga County teams were not spared, either. West Genesee had to postpone several days worth of contests late last week when a few COVID-19 cases were found at the high school. And then one of the area’s most high-profile boys soccer teams, Baldwinsville, had a player test positive after a game against Oswego on October 24. That led Oswego to halt all athletic activities to make sure they were still fine, and the Bees to abandon the rest of its regular-season activity. Thus, four games – against F-M, Westhill, Cicero-North Syracuse and Skaneateles – may not take place, yet another instance of a season cut short, even if it was for justifiable reasons in this ongoing pandemic.
What all the trouble should not overshadow is that there’s some great stories playing out on the fields when they are given the chance. That includes two undefeated soccer teams at East Syracuse Minoa, for while the girls Spartans’ success was well-established, the boys were also running over all of its opponents, including six goals scored in a 6-3 win over reigning state Class B champion Skaneateles on October 22 and then a tough 1-0 overtime victory over Class AA Cicero-North Syracuse on Monday night. On Saturday, ESM tests unbeaten Fayetteville-Manlius in one of the season’s most anticipated games, with the Spartans still having to face defending sectional Class A champion Jamesville-DeWitt twice.
There’s been noticeable shifts in large-school girls soccer this fall. Fayetteville-Manlius no longer holds dominion over Class AA, the Hornets having lost to Cicero-North Syracuse and tied Liverpool in the same week before a big Friday-night rematch with the Baldwinsville team it beat 2-0 at Pelcher-Arcaro Stadium earlier this month. Then there’s Class A, where New Hartford’s dominance continued unabated thanks to an impressive 2-0 shutout over Westhill early this week following up a similar win at Marcellus two weeks earlier. And of course there’s East Syracuse Minoa, still without a defeat led by super freshman Leah Rehm’s 13 goals and nine assists as it looks to improve upon its 7-0 start.
Moving to field hockey, the big question is whether Holland Patent and Cicero-North Syracuse can complete undefeated seasons. The Golden Knights put up gaudy goal totals in its early games, and then ran into some trouble late in October, tying Clinton 0-0 and having to work hard to defeat Baldwinsville 1-0. As for C-NS, it had mostly swept through SCAC foes and was a perfect 8-0 with six shutouts as the Northstars moved on to face Camden and Canastota on back-to-back nights this week, knowing that, come November, C-NS would still have return engagements with both B’ville and Fayetteville-Manlius, two of the teams which had given the Northstars far more trouble than other opponents.
The cross country runners in Section III continue to trudge through familiar conditions – cold temperatures, sometimes rain, lots of mud. When rivals Cicero-North Syracuse and Liverpool met up last weekend at Long Branch Park, the Northstars swept both sides of it, all before the two sides took their respective shots at Fayetteville-Manlius over the next two Saturdays. It’s Jamesville-DeWitt who pushed to the top of the SCAC Empire division through a series of wins, while both teams from Skaneateles and Tully asserted themselves atop the OHSL Liberty and Patriot divisions. There’s also an elite Tri-Valley League meet featuring Whitesboro, Camden and Vernon-Verona-Sherrill this weekend.
As perhaps many have feared, the girls tennis season ran into the cold, wet reality of late-October weather. Case in point – West Genesee, in the SCAC Metro division, still had four matches left against all of its league rivals – unbeaten Fayetteville-Manlius, Baldwinsville, Liverpool and Cicero-North Syracuse. Meanwhile, some other teams were enjoying fine seasons, including the Skaneateles Lakers, who climbed to the top of the Onondaga High School League Liberty division by winning all six of its regular-season matches, the key blows a pair of victories over rival Marcellus and a 4-3 decision over CBA late last week, a particular milestone given the Brothers’ dominace of the league in recent years.
Now the area’s high school boys golf teams have mostly put their clubs away, having fit in their matches before the course conditions got worse. It was a tight battle at the top of the SCAC Metro division with Cicero-North Syracuse Blue, Fayetteville-Manlius and Baldwisnville each losing just one league match. Then Oswego and Jamesville-DeWitt finished atop the SCAC Empire division while one more Onondaga High School League match separated the top three teams – Skaneateles managing to win a squeaker over Westhill and Cazenovia, utilizing its depth to overcome the fact that the Warriors’ Anthony Maglisco managed to win the individual title over the Lakers’ Tynan Jones.
Whether we get a winter sports season or not (still undecided), area basketball players are getting noticed. Jai Smith, who’s gone from Bishop Ludden to a prep school, continues to get a list of Division I offers. And South Jefferson girls standout Jackie Piddock, who led the Spartans to back-to-back sectional Class B championships in 2019 and 2020, is already drawing some Division I attention, too, including from George Washington University, whose coach, Jennifer Rizotti, was on UConn’s 1995 national championship team. Also, three schools in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference – Niagara, Manhattan and Marist – have made offers to Piddock, adding to her options.
And a blast from the past is back to coach Liverpool softball this spring should the season happen. Nick Spataro led the Warriors to all kinds of glory in his 28 seasons, winning 524 games, sectional and regional titles before retiring in 2018. When his replacement, Nicole Lindley, recently announced her departure, Liverpool athletic director Ari Liberman called up Spataro from Florida, where he had gone to retire and also serve as a football assistant coach at an area high school. Spataro, who said he missed Central New York more than he thought he would, agreed to return for the spring of 2021, saying that coaching legend Kerry Bennett could help out as well as two of his former players, Alicia Hansen and Peyton Bellrose.