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Making the most of an unpromised season By Elissa Eaton

Last fall, Naperville North was much quieter than usual -- so quiet, perhaps, that you could only hear the tail end of cicada season and the crisp gusts of autumn winds. There were no students bustling through the hallways after a long day of school to get to their practices, no Friday night lights and little to no excitement surrounding certain fall sports. Although some sports teams, which were deemed low risk, had their normally scheduled seasons, four sports -- boys soccer, field hockey, girls volleyball and football -- were stripped of their 2020 seasons due to COVID-19 precautions. Instead, these sports were given abbreviated seasons which are currently taking place this spring.

Facing a completely different time of year, no state tournament and roughly a four to eight week season, athletes and coaches find themselves in a situation they’ve never seen before. They have had to improvise their scheduling, training, and almost every other aspect of what would have been a normal season in a COVID-free world.

These are the words of athletes and coaches of each of the fall sports impacted by this change.

The change in weather

MONICA LODGE (field hockey Head Coach) In the fall, we’re still in those August, September warm months, so usually we’re worried about the heat and thunderstorms. This is a totally different way to play, but we’ve been really fortunate at the fact that the weather has been decent enough for us.

CADEN HILL (Sophomore: soccer) The weather has had a pretty big impact. As of right now, we’ve been pretty lucky because it’s relatively warmer than it usually is.

PABLO JARA (Senior: soccer) At the beginning of the season we had some weather complications with snow and it got really chilly at one point. But now, we’re lucky that it’s getting warm and there’s no snow on the ground so we’re looking forward to the rest of the season.

Photo by Zea Karmadi

CALLUM GALPIN (Senior: football) It’s definitely been an unusual experience. I’m not used to practicing in a hoodie and sweatpants but the cold’s kind of a vibe and I think a lot of our guys like it in the spring. We would’ve preferred it in the fall with the warmer weather, but we’re doing well with practicing outside all the time and battling the weather conditions has made us a lot tougher.

LEXI PERA (Freshman: field hockey) I really enjoy it in the spring because it’s getting warmer and it will continue to get warmer, but at the same time, it was a really long wait. We first started preparing for our season in July and it got to the point where I just wanted to start.

Photo by Elissa Eaton

An extra long off-season

LODGE Having that long of an off-season can do one of a couple things. It can either grow that excitement and anticipation for the season, but it can also drag on because when you train, you want to be able to play. You want to get your team together on the field and you want to compete.

JIM KONRAD (Boys soccer Head Coach) We really missed it, it was really a bummer not to be competing this fall and miss out, but we did have 20 contact days so we did get to work on some things this fall. It wasn’t the same as being on teams because we were all together as a big group of guys, but it was still good to see them and we got to work on some really good plays.

AIDAN GRAY (Sophomore: football) There was a lot of uncertainty. I know me and a bunch of other guys have been ready since August, so it’s been a lot of off-season workouts and being ready to go whenever we were allowed to play.

Photo by Eddie Kasper

BRI ELLERBY (Junior: volleyball) It was a lot of anticipation and waiting or seeing if we’re going to have a season or not because there were a lot of possibilities of what was actually going to happen.

JARA It was interesting, some of us got a bit lazy at the beginning of the COVID break because no one knew what to expect. At the end, we all got together. We started having breakfasts outside of high school and we started training because eventually we were going to have a season, maybe not in the fall, but definitely the next year.

JOHN NOFFKE (Fresh/Soph football Coach) We benefited more from having our freshmen in the weight lifting program for almost a full year. We started last summer and now nine to 12 months later we are a little stronger than we have been in the past.

JENNIFER URBAN (Girls volleyball Head Coach) The girls have come in great shape and they’ve really made some great improvements in the off-season, so that’s been exciting to see.

Photo by Zea Karmadi

Comradery and finally getting to play

KONRAD This is the love of my life! I went to school and I played here on this team so for me, I love it and I missed it. To see the boys out here competing, I teared up on our first game. Just to have the music out there, the anthem and the guys out there playing under the lights, it was just awesome.

NOFFKE Most of the guys are pretty gung ho about getting out there, giving it their all, having fun and just getting a season that we were unsure we were going to get. We always say this is the unpromised season, we didn’t think we’d get it, so a lot of people have a really good attitude.

PERA Our team is going out and trying our best every day, I’m just trying to have fun with it because I don’t have a lot of time left. It’s moving very fast and I’m just trying to enjoy it right now. We’ve worked very hard but we’re also trying to enjoy the very short season we have.

JARA We’re here for a short time but we’re here for a good time. We’re working as hard as we can, even if there’s no state tournament. We’re also just playing for each other and I think that’s going to benefit us for the next generation as well.

Photo by Zea Karmadi

HILL We kind of all bonded together in a weird way this year. There’s some teams where that takes a long time, but we fit in together right away and we have really good chemistry on the team.

YASMEEN MOURAD (Field hockey senior) The team atmosphere has been different because we don’t have those pasta parties or team bonding type of things but this team is more like a family to me. Even though we can’t have those bonding experiences, it’s still the same type of energy.

LODGE There’s nothing better than this! You’re wearing your school colors and everyone’s yelling “Huskies!” It doesn’t matter that the weather’s crummy, the girls are still out here cheering everyone on, really enjoying it and having a blast.

Photo by Elissa Eaton

The end goal and senior reflections

ELLERBY This season, our team goal is to win the conference because that’s what we have to work towards, especially with COVID taking away state. My goal is to get better as a player and to keep developing my skills

URBAN We want this to be a fun season. We want to send our seniors out on a really good note. We’re grateful we have a season for them in particular and we have a very talented group of seniors who have always been very dedicated to the program.

GRACE BAVA (senior: volleyball) Most of us were getting in a mental mindset, especially because there’s eight seniors on this team and we knew, coming back, that we’re going to be blessed to be given an opportunity to finish the legacy that we started here.

JARA A lot of seniors might mind it, but I don’t really mind it. I think it just makes us more aware of the present moment and allows us to cherish more of our friendships and really have fun.

Photo by Zea Karmadi

GALPIN It’s definitely not the way we wanted to go out but I’m just going to give it one hundred percent at every chance and opportunity I get to put on the pads. I’m also trying to go out there and just have fun and make some memories with my friends.

MOURAD I was really sad at first that I had to have my senior season this way, but I’m so excited that we actually got to have a season even though it’s only a month long. I’m just so grateful for the opportunity to be back on the field and with the team.

BAVA All of us seniors just want to make the most of it. We’ve spent so much time in this program so we just want to make sure that we are leaving an impact on the program and giving it our all this year.

GRAY The team and me know that the season can be taken away from us super easily, so we really want to play the season with the idea that some kids might not play football again and make the most of it.

MOURAD I tell the team this every time we get on the field: as long as we’re proud of how we performed, that’s all that matters. As long as we gave it our all, that’s all that matters to me. As far as getting something out of this, I think it’s just being able to be here with everybody is all I can ask for.

Photo by Abby Lapota

Overall, this year looked very different for many fall sports. It was not ideal for many, especially the seniors. Although there were many losses, including shortened seasons and a cancelled state tournament, these players and coaches were very thankful for the unpromised season that reminds them of just how much they love their sports.