Middle Township High School girls lacrosse standout Kira Sides finished both her sophomore and junior seasons with 100-plus goals.
The senior wants to surpass that milestone again this spring.
But something beyond her control could prevent her from reaching that goal.
On Thursday, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, which governs most high school sports in the state, canceled the rest of its state basketball tournaments due to the COVID-19 crisis.
But the new coronavirus also is affecting spring sports as local programs are canceling practices and scrimmages.
The entire spring sports season could be in jeopardy.
“It is really upsetting,” said Sides, 18, of Cape May Court House. “I have been training hard and was really excited for this season. We are taking it like every practice could be our last.”
The Olympic and Tri-County conferences have canceled scrimmages and games until the end of March. The Cape-Atlantic League recommends postponing scrimmages but left the final decision to the discretion of its schools.
“It’s disappointing for the kids,” Mainland Regional baseball coach Billy Kern said. “But it is serious enough to warrant this. The safety of our players is the most important.”
The Mustangs postponed their scrimmages with Pleasantville on Friday and Bishop Eustace on Saturday.
“I told my players already that if and when we can play, we will go out and do the best we can,” Kern said. “But all we can do now is worry about the area’s safety.”
Sides will play lacrosse at La Salle University next season. Maddie Barber, also a senior leader on the Panthers, will play at Temple.
Sides has scored 290 goals and added 115 assists for 405 points during her three-year career. She also plays soccer and basketball at Middle, but lacrosse is her main sport.
“It would stink if they cancel the season,” said Sides, who was The Press Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year in 2019. “It does help knowing that I’ll play in college, but I feel bad for my teammates who aren’t playing in college and it’s their last season.
“I’m thinking positive. It can’t last forever.”
Middle girls lacrosse coach Tina Prickett had a small intrateam scrimmage Friday. She wants to get the most practices in before a potential postponement or cancellation.
The third-year coach, who played lacrosse at Middle, said the Panthers have been anticipating the season since they lost in the South Jersey Group II semifinals last spring.
“I played in high school and in college, and I cannot imagine missing out on my senior year,” Prickett said. “My heart would break for them if this opportunity is taken away from them. It is so unfortunate.”
The NHL and NBA already suspended its seasons. The MLB canceled spring training and postponed opening day. The NCAA canceled March Madness and its spring season championships. Individual conferences and colleges will decide about the regular season.
“With everything closing down lately, I am praying that they clean this up and we can go on with the season,” Buena Regional softball senior Bridgette Gilliano said. “This season is really important for all of us. We have a lot of unfinished business.
“But I can’t have negative thoughts. Hopefully, positive thoughts bring positive results.”
Gilliano, who is committed to play softball at Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland, led the Chiefs last spring to a South Jersey championship and to the state Group I final.
With a team that returns players such as seniors and first-team Press All-Stars Gabby D’Ottavio and Natalie Ampole, a return to the state final would appear to be in reach if the season is played.
“It’s definitely going to impact me, especially it being my last year,” said Gilliano, 17, who was The Press Softball Player of the Year last season. “I’ll be missing out on all those extra reps. I’ll be missing out on my last season, which is an added experience for college.”
St. Augustine Prep senior Kenny Levari, who is committed to play baseball at Old Dominion in Virginia, said postponing the start of the local high school season makes sense for health reasons but says he disagrees with the NCAA’s decision to cancel all spring championships, including the College World Series.
“It would really stink if we don’t get to play,” said Levari, a 17-year-old shortstop/pitcher from Vineland. “They shouldn’t cancel seasons prematurely. It should just be temporary for now and see if it gets worse.”
Levari, who was a first-team Press All-Star last spring, batted .400 with 19 runs scored and 18 RBIs. He also was the Hermits’ closer and struck out 24 in 19 2/3 innings.
Levari aims to have an even better senior season.
“Hopefully, the virus dies down soon and we can play and get on the field,” Levari said.
ACIT baseball senior Tony Santa Maria, who is committed to Iona College in New York, knows his career will not be finished after graduation.
But that doesn’t change the possibility that the Red Hawks’ standout infielder could miss his entire senior campaign.
“A lot is going through my mind right now,” said Santa Maria, 17, of Absecon. “I can speak for all the seniors in South Jersey by saying how disappointing it would be if we don’t get to play. We worked and trained so hard.”
Last season, Santa Maria batted .431 with 23 runs scored 24 stolen bases and four home runs. He does not want his ACIT career to end this way.
“To go down the path we are going, it’s scary for the seniors,” he said. “Everyone wants to play their senior year.”
Cedar Creek pitcher Luke Vaks, who was also a first-team Press All-Star last spring, will join Levari next season at Old Dominion. Vaks is confident a solution will be reached but said these recent actions are needed to protect each other.
“It’s crazy to think about,” Vaks said, “If this continues to be a serious problem, it would be rough not to play, but I would feel OK. But if they cancel it too soon without seeing if it gets worse, then I wouldn’t be happy.”
Hermits senior and North Carolina State University-bound golfer Drue Nicholas said there is not a lot of contact or fans in golf, unlike other spring sports, so there may not be as big of a threat.
Nicholas is the three-time Press Golfer of the Year.
“I’ll be disappointed, obviously,” said Nicholas, 17, of Egg Harbor Township. “But it helps knowing I am going to the next level to play golf. It makes it bittersweet. I feel for the players younger than me and the other seniors more than myself.”
Prickett, the Middle girls lacrosse coach, agreed that if the season were to be canceled, it would not stop the athletes from playing the sports they love.
They would, however, not be allowed to play on school property and would have to seek other available fields.
But Prickett doesn’t want that to be an option for any athlete.
“I agree with postponing the season,” Prickett said, “But we need to take every measure we can to make this season happen. We owe it to the kids to make it happen.”