A new way of playing high school sports in the age of COVID-19 | Local | #coronavirus | #kids. | #children | #schools

At first glance, it seems business as usual for high school sports. Now that restrictions have been loosened, schools and districts are hustling to get as many student-athletes back in the game as quickly — and as safely — as possible.

It’s that word “safely” that has kept games from being completely “normal.” And who knows? By the end of all this, maybe some of this new safety protocol becomes the “new normal.”

Many venues now have several entrances for events, for example. Teams and coaches enter a gym or stadium through one entrance, the home-team fans through a second entry and the visiting fans through yet a third door.

At football games, the home team has always provided the first-down marker and the 10-yard chain markers. In the past, they were always set up on the opposition’s sideline, manned by volunteers from the home team.

This year, the first-down apparatus has remained on the home-team’s sideline to limit the mixing of team personnel.

Tuesday, I got to see how Notre Dame-Belmont handled the return of volleyball. In addition to the COVID-19 testing required for the NDB and Sacred Heart Prep teams, the teams did not switch sides after every game as they normally do and each player had an assigned — socially distanced — chair on the sideline.

The main precaution taken, however, was the number of volleyballs and the cleaning of those balls. In “the old days,” a total of four balls might be rotated into a volleyball match. Tuesday, there were dozens of balls in play and each had to be cleaned after every point. Assigned to the sanitation detail was Adrianna Agresti, the eighth-grade daughter of NDB head coach Jen Agresti.

Adrianna Agresti may have been the hardest working person in the gym. Not only did she have to collect the ball after every point, she had to squirt them down with cleaning solution and wipe them off. She then had to distribute the balls into big industrial-like laundry hampers, buckets, on each baseline so the serving team always had a clean ball to use.

“Probably 25 balls in each bucket,” Jen Agresti said.

Jen Agresti, who also runs the Rage Westside club program, said she implemented a lot of the safety measures she’s seen used at volleyball tournaments around the country.

“These are things I’ve been seeing what tournaments have been doing,” Agresti said. “We just took every single thing, safety-wise, from other places.

“It doesn’t get much safer [than what we were doing].”

Adding to the safety measures was the referees’ usage of electronic whistles — a hand-held box with a button that, when pushed, emits a whistle sound. I was unaware such devices were being used until the head referee descended from her perch above the net mid-game. She began walking toward her colleague when she was suddenly surprised by her whistle going off.

She thought maybe her batteries were dead. Such is the nature of sports during a pandemic.

A pair of Burlingame graduates has garnered some attention for their college soccer exploits.

Mia Fontana, a 2019 Burlingame grad and a sophomore at Cal, scored her first collegiate goal last weekend and it was a memorable one. Fontana converted an Emma Westin pass into a first-half goal just before halftime that proved to be the difference in the Golden Bears’ 1-0 win over Stanford Saturday — Cal’s first win over its rival in eight years, a streak that dates to the 2013 season.

It was Fontana’s first goal of any kind in two seasons as she is just finally rounding into form after battling a foot injury since high school. She missed most of her senior year with the Panthers and her first season at Cal because of the injury, but the national team pool player has been slowly upping her play this season, culminating with Saturday’s win.

The game wasn’t decided, however, until Cal goalkeeper Angelina Anderson, the reigning 2019 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, stopped a Stanford penalty kick in the 88th minute. It was the ninth save of the match for Anderson.

In Oregon, 2020 graduate Sophia Young is turning heads as a freshman goalkeeper for Lewis & Clark College.

Monday, Young was named the Northwest Conference Defensive Player of the Week after posting a pair of shutouts with nine saves against Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon.

In the first meeting of the home-and-home series, Young’s Pioneer team went on the road for a 3-0 win, with Young making four saves.

Four days later, L&C hosted the Boxers, with Young making a career-high five saves in a scoreless draw. Three of her saves came during the final 12 minutes of regulation and her final one came in the 99th minute. Young has not conceded a goal in 225 minutes.

Young has started and played every minute of the Pioneers four games thus far this season, having made 16 saves while allowing five goals — a 1.18 goals against average.

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