With the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies (AACA) going ahead with a league-only sports schedule this fall (as of Sept. 14) and tryouts to begin Sept. 21, the Merion Mercy Academy fall sports coaches interviewed spoke of the need for flexibility and adaptability.
“Our golf team will try to play as many matches as we can fit in,” said Merion Mercy golf coach Bill Wechsler. “The unavailability of golf courses this year due to assigned start times at most courses is a restriction we have to work around, but we will adapt and provide the best experience we can for our golfers.”
Merion Mercy cross country coach Matt DiPretore said, “The new AACA schedule is a bit difficult for our runners, as it is not a contact sport. They are used to running every day as a team and running two meets a week. However, as a coaching staff, we will adapt and adjust and model the same for our girls.”
The AACA deemed that the first fall sports to begin league contests would be the relatively social-distanced sports of golf (Sept. 24) and tennis (Sept. 28).
“Our tennis team is in a unique position this fall without a dedicated practice and game facility,” said Merion Mercy athletic director Shannon Fisher. “We are pleased to have brought the team together several times to practice as we seek a long-term solution. The team has shown incredible flexibility and resiliency, and we hope to provide more opportunities to practice and compete this season.”
Contests in cross country, field hockey, soccer and volleyball for Merion Mercy (and the AACA) are slated to begin the week of Oct. 12.
Merion Mercy field hockey head coach Gretta Ehret said, “While we are looking forward to playing as many games as we can – our girls love field hockey and want to play and compete – we also understand that this virus is serious and just want to make sure everyone stays safe and healthy. We will continue to take it one day at a time and be flexible. We just feel lucky to even be playing and having a season.
“I understand the AACA needs to do what is right and safe by all participants and fans, and I appreciate their thoughtfulness in making this decision and thinking through all possibilities and perspectives. I hope that we will continue to move forward with the plans.”
In general, the Golden Bear coaches mentioned that they were happy their players were getting a chance – limited as though it is – to train, compete and interact with other athletes.
“Our girls are very happy to be there with their teammates and friends on the days we can meet together,” said DePretore. “All the AACA coaches were in agreement with max participation because it is about getting the girls out there to compete, and we will look for as many opportunities we can.”
“I’m pleased that we are being afforded the opportunity to participate in league play,” said Merion Mercy girls’ soccer head coach Brett McGovern. “Given the unique circumstances we are in, I understand the rationale behind AACA’s decision to delay and condense the season, as it is in the best interests of our student-athletes.
“We will try to maintain as much normalcy as possible in our program, all the while being safe. A key for us will be to balance adaptation with a readiness to compete.”
For the one fall sport that is indoors – girls’ volleyball – Merion Mercy head coach Jolen Aldaya reiterated the need to observe safety regulations in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I have been in contact with all of the AACA volleyball coaches, and we all agree that we want this season to be the best it can be for our student-athletes while maintaining the strict safe guidelines set forth by our schools and league,” said Aldaya.
“I am grateful for the AACA for deciding to continue fall sports [this fall]. Being that volleyball is the indoor fall sport and that the PIAA guidelines are set, I plan to get as many athletes on the court as possible home and away. I want this season to be successful for each and every one of our players.”