How is that for the beginning of a season that has already been postponed?
Two COVID-19 breaks, seven players logging out, exercises with a maximum of 12 players and multiple injuries.
Such is life right now for SMU women’s football, a team bogged down both directly from COVID-19 and from all the peripheral effects of the virus.
“It was a challenge,” said head coach Chris Petrucelli.
The SMU has not played a game this season, almost five weeks after the planned kick-off for 2020-21. Six games were canceled or postponed, many on or the day before the game.
While other American Athletic Conference teams have already played three or four conference games, the SMU has been grappling with an avalanche of problems that just got the season off the ground. At this point, it’s a fair question if the team will play at all.
Starting today, the SMU will be without a game for at least nine days after being forced to postpone a competition against Temple on March 7 as COVID-19 issues continued in the program. Now it has either canceled or postponed 54% of its schedule.
“I think we’ll see every game as a challenge for us,” said Petrucelli.
And the reason for this has to do with mere duty roster numbers. After seven players opt out, the program works more like a small basketball roster than a soccer program for the purposes of the COVID-19 protocols.
While most soccer teams would not be affected by three people in the COVID-19 protocol, the SMU simply does not have the numbers to play. Because of this, Petrucelli confirmed, the SMU had to postpone their game against Memphis on February 28th.
For the conference, each team must have 15 players available to play. If the SMU has three people on the log, there are 12 players left. Simply put, the edges are thin.
“I think we have to play under 15 if we want to play this year,” said Petrucelli. “It goes back to the opt-outs. We had injuries every year. But the opt-outs put a heavy strain on our list. You have canceled due to COVID. ”
It all started in the fall when almost the entire senior class didn’t return for that season. The program has not publicly released the names of those who have opted out, but the current list only shows three seniors – Jewel Boland, Katina Tsapos, and Sophie Adler.
Then the NCAA declined to allow two other players moving to school to play immediately.
Combined with injuries, some of which have occurred in practice, has formed a small list of around 15 players who will make it through the season.
The lack of numbers has also resulted in games being sometimes canceled hours in advance. A positive test can enable SMU to not have enough players to play with.
For example, the SMU’s game against UNT, which had already been postponed due to the weather, was canceled on the morning of the game.
“Look, there is nothing we can do about the opt-outs. There is nothing we can do about the injuries. There is nothing we can do about the quarantined players, ”said Petrucelli. “We can only practice with the players we have.”
Petrucelli also confirmed that the SMU trained every day regardless of the number of players available outside of the team’s two breaks, once in October and again before the winter storm.
But all of this has put SMU in a situation where it essentially has to play 10 games in four weeks. Most teams in the college landscape currently schedule one game per week. SMU has to play two, sometimes three, to play that many games.
The next SMU game is currently planned for March 14th at Rice. The conference tournament will take place on April 15th. So there will be a month and a day to jam in an entire season of play.
With the numbers already low, the feasibility of playing any game in this short period of time is being called into question both due to COVID and physically for the players. Every player logs important minutes.
“Look, it’s going to be a challenge. But I don’t think it’s impossible, ”said Petrucelli. “I don’t think our goals should change.”
Jordina Colomer, a newcomer who is now on the starting line-up due to the upheaval, repeated this.
“It’s definitely going to be tough on our bodies,” she said.
The NCAA has said that a team must play at least six games to qualify for the tournament. Petrucelli said he was optimistic that the team would hit the threshold at some point. No games are required for the conference tournament.
In any case, an already tired year will only get more difficult.
“I think we all care about the health and safety of our players. It was difficult for the children. Just think, we’ve been practicing since August 1st and haven’t played a game, ”said Petrucelli.
“I think we can all find out in the dark. We never really know how people get it or where it comes from, ”he concluded.