Nearly seven months after the CIAC canceled its winter tournaments on March 9 due to the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of student-athletes across the state returned to competition Thursday, including the Norwalk and Brien McMahon girls volleyball teams.
High school sports were finally back.
They looked different. Many were played in front of no spectators. Postgame handshakes, high-fives and team huddles were also absent. Some players wore masks. Sidelines were spread out. Starts were staggered for cross country and some swimming meets were held virtually, with teams competing head-to-head from different venues.
But this long journey, which started with conditioning in cohorts of 10 on July 6, reached a destination many feared could not be navigated: actual interscholastic competition. The road back was not easy, nor will be the road ahead. Athletes endured a week of stoppage in August while the CIAC reviewed Department of Health recommendations, before advancing to non-skill development training Aug. 29, full practices Sept. 21 and varsity events on Thursday.
Seasons will be shorter, with 12 events against opponents close in proximity played through the first week of November, potentially followed by a postseason experience to be determined. All is predicated on the state’s coronavirus numbers remaining low.
Norwalk, McMahon and Staples will compete in the FCIAC central for all sports along with Danbury, Ridgefield and Wilton.
On Thursday, the Norwalk girls volleyball team took the last two games to defeat McMahon, 3-1, in the season opener for both squads Thursday afternoon.
The Bears won the match by scores of 25-13, 24-26, 25-18, and 25-22.
China Tinnen led Norwalk with 24 assists. Brinn Renwick added eight kills and six digs, and Isabella Arvanitis contributed seven kills and three aces.
For McMahon, Lucy Grillo had eight kills, nine service points and 13 digs. Meghan Sisk added five kills, four service points, and eight digs; Mary Alice Smith contributed seven kills and two blocks; Camille Legnani contributed 11 service points and 21 digs; and Emily Bouloukmpasi had 11 assists and 14 digs.