Phoenixville girls tennis player Kiley Mangialardi is happy to be ‘one of the lucky ones.’
When it comes to high school athletics in the Fall of 2020, that means Mangialardi is part of a small group of Phantoms athletes able to play their sport this fall.
With Phoenixville approving an all-virtual reopening plan, the school district voted to allow girls tennis, boys and girls golf and marching band (if it adheres to 20-feet social distancing) while suspending competitions for the rest of its fall athletic seasons.
“I’m very grateful that my teammates and I have been given the opportunity to play tennis this season,” Mangialardi said. “Once the news that most sports would not be played in the fall reached my classmates and I, we immediately were disappointed.
“I cannot imagine how players for other sports feel, especially the seniors in my own class this year. I was one of the lucky ones, and I definitely feel for those who do not get to participate in their sports.”
Two Pioneer Athletic Conference schools, Norristown and Pottstown, suspended all of their fall athletic competitions. Phoenixville made determinations on the safety levels of each extra-curricular activity.
Those Phantoms athletes able to participate in their sports this fall are taking extra care to limit the risks of COVID-19 exposure.
Girls tennis players have thus far been meeting for voluntary workouts once per week with upperclassmen and underclassmen practicing at different times. Players wear masks when they’re not on the court and bring their own can of marked tennis balls to avoid sharing them with others.
For golf, players will have to take caution to maintain their distance from each other at the practice range, on the tee box and near the green. Players won’t be able to exchange scorecards and will refrain from touching the flagstick and shaking hands.
“This year is unique due to the restrictions placed to prioritize our health and safety,” Phoenixville senior girls tennis player Annie Absher said. “Despite the new measures, we are making the most of the situation and are looking forward to another fun season.”
“Given the bond between team members, I am confident everyone will look out for one another and do their best to be safe,” she added.
The Phoenixville boys golf team has yet to meet up. Senior Kyle Resuta has been competing by himself this summer but is excited for the chance to rejoin his team this fall.
After bringing back Resuta, a first team All-Pioneer Athletic Conference selection, senior Bryan McGuire and sophomore Ryan Jasudowich, both district qualifiers in 2019, the Phantoms are thankful they’ll have the opportunity to try to improve on a 5-4 finish in the league last season and make a push for a Final Four spot.
They’re also thankful for the chance to reunite with each other once again this fall.
“Not seeing a lot of the younger guys throughout the summer, some of the older ones and then getting together and possibly doing something special this year, that’s probably the best thing that I look forward to,” Resuta said.
Along with the social, sentimental and health benefits of playing their sports, some Phoenixville athletes are excited about the impact it might have on their future athletic careers.
For those fall athletes who are unsure of their academic athletic futures after this season, competing this fall presents the ability to possibly expand those opportunities.
“Being that I’m a senior, and I’m sure others would agree, I was unsure of how we would be able to be recruited or apply for scholarships,” Mangialardi said. “Being able to play this season definitely eased my mind about those things. Besides that it means a lot to be able to play this year in general. I think this season will make us all appreciate the game even more.”
Resuta has several friends who typically play fall sports who are unsure of what their plans for the fall look like. He mentioned that they and others might look toward those sports that are allowed to compete in order to fill their competitive void.
“They’re pretty bummed out,” Resuta said. “It stinks for them having their senior season cut short, but a few of them I know have actually reached out to me that they want to play golf this season, which is really good getting some new guys maybe playing this sport. … I’ve heard a lot of times that this is the best thing for golf that’s happened in a while. You see everybody now going to this sport.”
For now, Phoenixville athletes are participating in voluntary workouts or staying sharp on their own. The PAC delayed the start of fall practices and heat acclimatization to Monday, Sept. 7 while competitions and games are allowed to begin Friday, Sept. 25.
A few extra weeks of waiting won’t dampen the anticipation of a fall season that some thought might not come.
“The team has a close bond, so it is always exciting to start the season and welcome in the new players,” Absher said. “Even though this season will not be like previous years, I am thankful we still have the opportunity to play. I look forward to playing tennis every year as it is so much fun. After being home for so many months, many of us are looking forward to returning to the courts.”