Springfield was antsy to prove itself again. The Pride were one year removed from ranking as the No. 7 team in the nation to open the 2018-19 season. It was unranked to begin in 2019.
Still, the music blasted from the bowels of Blake Arena as if they were the best in the country; loose, but focused at the same time. As Daryl Costa slipped on his fresh game socks, shoes and Springfield jersey, he couldn’t escape the reality of how last season ended — an early exit from the NEWMAC tournament at the hands of the eventual champion: Emerson.
“We had to come back with something to prove,” Costa said.
As the team came up through the tunnel, fans roared. Costa spotted some of his classmates and friends herded in the middle of the bleachers — courtside.
The team fed off this energy, Costa says. It powered them to a 90-80 victory that night, where Ross went off for 34 points. Nothing out of the ordinary for Springfield’s all-time scoring leader. Post added 24 points to go with 14 boards.
For the ninth straight season, the basketball season started with a victory.
As students returned to campus to start a new school year, the pandemic continued to rage. Fall competition was off the table. Students could not help but feel an amplified sense of loss as what would have been Homecoming passed by. Something was missing. Springfield College had committed over the summer to not participate in anything until at least the start of 2021.
Still, though, teams were allowed to practice. Larger teams such as football were split into different pod groups to not overcrowd facilities. Testing was mandated on a weekly basis. Masks were required at all times, even during vigorous activity. All of this took time for athletes to adapt.
The fall semester dragged. For some athletes, practice acted as a sanctuary, a chance to escape such a tumultuous time and inject some sense of normalcy into their lives -- even though it was a long, long way from the normal they once knew.
Costa sensed the mundane vibe around campus.
“I think that’s the keyword: energy. It’s just a whole different vibe on campus. It’s weird.”
Little things are what he craved the most. Team meals, sharing the weight room with different teams; just the ability to freely gather with his teammates.
On a game day pre-COVID, the basketball team made sure to snag a long table at Cheney to fit the entire team and shared a meal together.
Every Wednesday, the team used to lift at the same time as football. Costa would tease one of his best friends, Todd Rodgers, on the other side of the weight room.
Yo Todd, let me see you do something.
Sports were not completely shut down across college athletics in the fall like it was last spring. In fact, many Div. I schools were back in competition. College football carried on relatively normally. A portion of high schools brought back sports for the fall, as well.
It was discouraging for Poisson to witness other schools play full schedules, while he couldn’t get anything going at Springfield.
“It’s got to be frustrating if we’ve got a student athlete who’s at Springfield College who has a brother or a sister or a friend or a relative who’s in a Div. I program that’s competing and a sibling that’s in high school that's competing,” he said.
Although, high school and college sports are radically different, given that Div. I schools had resources that far outnumbered institutions like Springfield. Still, Poisson was eager to get his athletes back into a competition setting as quickly as possible.
On Nov. 2, the NEWMAC decided to suspend winter sports competition. The winter season caused the pandemic to worsen more than ever. There was optimism that winter sports teams could independently schedule games in February. That was quickly squashed when the positivity rate in Springfield and the state of Massachusetts skyrocketed.