With spring sports finally coming back into full-swing, Keene State and its athletic conference, the Little East Conference (LEC), are looking to make a full return to conference championships.
It has been a while since Keene State athletics have seen a season with postseason play. Men’s and women’s basketball teams had a conference championship at the end of their winter season. Now, the Owls are getting closer and closer to normalcy and are finally going to be able to compete for the chance to call themselves the best.
Each sport will have its own plan for how their championships are going to be executed. Phil Racicot, Keene State’s Director of Athletics and Recreation, says the LEC is committed to sponsoring championships in all spring sports that are in line with the NCAA decision to hold these events.
Here are the plans for the 2021 LEC championships for spring sports:
Lacrosse will still be holding the same format of championships it has had in previous years. It will continue to do the round-robin tournament style, with the tournament sites dependent on the seeding of each LEC team. There’s only one difference this year: there will be a couple less teams than normal.
“The only difference in lacrosse this spring are with the affiliate members who have opted out of competing outside of their home states so there will be a couple less teams than normal,” said Racicot.
For baseball and softball championships, the usual format would be for all teams to meet at one neutral site, however, there are several schools who are not allowed to leave their campus to compete due to specific guidelines from the state or school. If that’s the case, Racicot said the conference might have a back-up plan.
“The LEC [Athletic Directors] have plans for an alternate format, or Plan B, in place that eliminates overnight travel, but maintains a double elimination six team format,” said Racicot.
As for track and field, not much will change. The Championships will take place at UMass Dartmouth this season, but the scheduling is new for 2021.
“The meet will be divided into men’s and women’s competitions between two days this spring,” said Racicot.
While some fans may be excited to see spring championships, others are questioning their safety. Phil Racicot says the NCAA and the LEC have specific guidelines in place to ensure a safe return for these competitions.
“These protocols are extensive and include screening, testing based on tiers and transmission risk for each sport, and masking and distancing in aspects that are appropriate for the sport,” explained Racicot.
Regardless of the new protocols, or the uncertainty of the future of these events, Keene State’s sports teams are excited to finally be back into some championship competition. Just take a look at men’s lacrosse for example. Mark Theriault, head coach of the men’s lacrosse team, said it’s nice to finally see things go back to the way they were.
“It feels back to normal, and this is what we’ve been practicing for four weeks,” Theriault said. “For us to go back into league play and to play lacrosse, I think we’re all excited, we’re ready to go.”
The players are ready to go as well. Joe Nutting, senior attack on the team, said he’s fired up to get back out there and dominate once again. He said it’s definitely not going to feel the same, though.
“I think it’s a little different in the fact that there’s no fans,” said Nutting. “I think usually here in Keene we bring a pretty big fan base. I think that’s obviously a little different. Other than that we’re definitely excited to get back out there.”
Big time sporting events were stripped from us throughout all 2020 so it’s safe to assume not everything is for certain. What happens if spring championships are going to fall through?
Phil Racicot says the conference has already thought about how to award the crown for each respective sport.
“In the event that a championship cannot be held there are contingency plans to award the LEC automatic qualifier bid to a combination of the highest tournament seeds and regular season championships,” said Racicot.
However, Racicot doesn’t want these seasons to end like that. He’s ready to see some competition once again.
“After having to cancel the spring seasons before they really began last year we are fully committed to getting our seasons underway this spring and playing championships as well.”
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