My Point

A Season Where Gratitude Supersedes All Else Nears Conclusion

Wilton’s Owen Lillis celebrates scoring a goal last month against Staples. (Matt Dewkett)

The Greenwich volleyball team had just finished an exhausting and satisfying three-set win over New Canaan 10 days ago to stay undefeated when the conversation during postgame interviews with the Cardinal players turned to the missed opportunity to compete this fall both for FCIAC and state titles.

There should have been added disappointment for Greenwich: after losing just once during the regular season a year ago it failed to reach the finals of either tournament. With eight motivated seniors returning, the chance of adding two trophies to the school showcase would have been a realistic goal.

Due to the pandemic, teams are playing abbreviated and regionalized seasons, and the postseason that begins this week will keep teams in their current regions. Thus, Greenwich will not get the chance to play Trumbull, which has lost just once and is the defending Class LL champion, or Fairfield Ludlowe, which won the FCIAC title.

Cause for disappointment, right?

“It’s definitely a little bittersweet because on the one hand, we’re super grateful that we even get to have a season, but then on the other hand we are pushing really hard, all summer we were playing to get ready for this season,” said Cornelia Roach, one of the Cardinals’ stable of powerful hitters. “I know there’s a list of teams that we wanted to play. But you know what, the fact that we even get to come to the gym and play games is enough for me.”

Greenwich’s Caroline Mrdeljia makes a block in a match against New Canaan. (Mark Conrad)

Super grateful that we even get to have a season. The fact that we even get to come to the gym and play games is enough for me.

If there has been one constant during this most unusual of FCIAC seasons, it has been the expression of appreciation from coaches and athletes that they get to play meaningful games. Sure, there are no traditional championships to be won. Teams in all sports will stay within their regions for mini tournaments.

Speaking to a number of coaches, the view is less a chance to be crowned a champion than the chance to play two more games before putting this abbreviated season, which started three weeks late, to rest.

As 10-game regular seasons come to an end over the next few days, teams have been as competitive as ever. When they step on the field the sole focus is on the outcome.

But it is also obvious that wins have not been as sweet and losses not as crushing. The importance of games rank somewhere between soccer friendlies and what you would expect in a conventional season.

Players and coaches on teams that would normally have been viable contenders for FCIAC and state titles instead have spoken about finishing 10-0. There won’t be trophies, just satisfaction.

Advertisement

The chance to compete has proved a prize in and of itself. More so in recent weeks, as the number of Covid cases as expected have increased. Teams from Brien McMahon and Ridgefield are returning to action this week after having been forced to quarantine, while Norwalk now finds itself in that predicament.

Schedules have been changed on the fly, sometimes on a daily basis. The Staples girls soccer team, because of a scheduled stretch of games against both Ridgefield and McMahon, did not play a game for two weeks and has now played once in the last 18 days. I was at one of their practices last week to work on a story.

There was disappointment and frustration but overall the realization that in these times there is no one to get mad at. Many of these athletes also play spring sports, and six months ago the opportunity for regular team practices would have been savored.

The FCIAC could have given teams a little more of a postseason feel and had regional winners play against each other. It seems it would have meant bus rides that in many cases would have been just slightly longer than during the regular season. We could have had Greenwich-Wilton in boys soccer, Staples-St. Joseph in girls soccer, Greenwich-Trumbull in volleyball and Staples-Darien in field hockey, just to name a few top games that would have had great appeal.

But right now the FCIAC is just trying to get to the finish line this fall with the fewest possible postponements going forward before crossing fingers on a winter season.

We have all come to view sports on all levels somewhat differently since March, first having none at all and now, at least on the high school level, on a modified basis.

There have been no words of complaint, just that gratitude of getting onto the field.

“It’s been upsetting at some points but at one point we were grouped in with football and didn’t know if we’d get a season,” said Lilly Saleeby, the star of the Greenwich volleyball team. “So we’re still going to treat it as if we’re playing for a title even though there might not be one.”


The Ruden Report needs your support to avoid charging a subscription price for our work. Click here to make a contribution.