Game on for UPEI, Holland College as modified soccer season kicks off
The season had previously been cancelled due to COVID-19
UPEI and Holland College athletes will be heading back to the pitch this weekend after all — public health officials have approved a plan to allow schools to co-host a varsity soccer league for men's and women's teams during the fall season.
Earlier this year, Atlantic University Sport and the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association — the sport governing bodies for both schools — said fall sports were cancelled.
"To give them that competition really is the last piece of the puzzle for their student-athlete experience," UPEI varsity co-ordinator Ron Annear told CBC News.
The return-to-play plan, approved by P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Office, includes some rule changes that lower the amount of contact among players and includes only inter-provincial play.
Four men's teams and four women's teams will each play eight games.
Besides UPEI and Holland College teams, other two teams include the P.E.I. provincial U17 teams and a varsity alumni team made up of either former UPEI Panthers or Holland College Hurricanes.
Ultimately we're following the basic principles that the P.E.I. Soccer Association has already had approved.— Ron Annear
Annear said the schools wanted to provide student athletes with the opportunity to compete safely and not miss out on a season entirely.
"Now that they will have a competitive season — albeit it's local — but it will be very high-quality soccer and I think from a recruitment perspective it's certainly very contained."
Phase one will focus solely on just playing games, which will all take place at the Terry Fox Sports Complex in Cornwall. The next phase, in November or so, will see the league move over to UPEI's turf field, which is now in use by the Canadian Premier League.
No spectators will be allowed at the games in Cornwall, but whether fans will be in the stands at UPEI is to be determined.
"The importance that sport plays in social well-being has never been so prominent," said Jonathan Vos, head coach for the Holland College men's and women's squads, in a written release. "The players and coaches are extremely excited to be able to participate in a league this fall."
Following lead of P.E.I. Soccer Association
The operation plan somewhat mirrors the plan by P.E.I. Soccer Association, which held games safely this summer under the approval of the CPHO.
Annear said the foundation laid by the association allowed UPEI and Holland College to make the pitch for a limited season themselves.
"We're just kind of riding on the coattails of the operational plan they put together," he said.
"We've adopted that and basically we would have some of our own additions as it relates to each institution … ultimately we're following the basic principles that the P.E.I. Soccer Association has already had approved."
Games begin this weekend on Saturday, Sept. 12, with the Holland College men's team playing the men's alumni team.
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With files from Jessica Doria-Brown