EASTHAM — The Nauset Regional High School boys ice hockey team lost its first game of the season to the Nantucket Whalers 3-0 on Saturday, Jan. 2. Though it was not an ideal start, everyone was thankful to be on the ice.
Only the Nauset boys and girls hockey, boys and girls basketball, and boys and girls swimming and diving teams are competing this winter. The teams have been able to practice together, under MIAA guidelines, since Dec. 14.
But the Cape and Islands League schedule is a bit of a carousel. At press time, the only Nauset games that were still on through Jan. 12 were against Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and St. John Paul II High School. The other schools in the league, Monomoy, Dennis-Yarmouth, Barnstable, Falmouth, and Sandwich have paused practices and games until Jan. 11 or 12 due to Covid-19 restrictions.
“I knew my first year was going to be challenging, but I didn’t expect this,” said Drew Locke, the new varsity head coach of the boys hockey team.
Nonetheless, Nauset coaches and players are proud that their school is one of the few still able to compete. “I think it goes to show how careful we are off the court,” said Avery Burns, senior captain of the girls basketball team. “Everyone has to adapt and get used to it.”
Both Burns and Clayton Hussey, senior captain of the boys hockey team, said that players and coaches are holding each other accountable when it comes to following guidelines both in and outside of school. “We really crack down because we really want to play,” Hussey said.
Locke said that is evident: “You can see it in their eyes.”
Though Locke has been with the Nauset hockey program for the last five years, he was named head coach in April just after Covid-19 became a harsh reality on the Cape. He began organizing nonmandatory outdoor conditioning workouts in the summer so that players could stay in shape. He has also developed his own protocol for how players and coaches enter, exit, and interact during practice at Charles Moore Arena. Players must get dressed outside, or in their cars, and have a socially distant meeting outside the rink before entering. It’s not ideal, but the team has bought in.
“I told them, ‘No matter your opinions, check them at the door, because this is the protocol and this is what we have to do to be together,’ ” said Locke. “It’s amazing how much they’ve had to grow up.”
The team posted an underwhelming 1-13-2 regular season record last year. This year the Warriors are still looking to compete, but they also want the program to grow under a new head coach.
“The expectation for all of us is to grow as a team,” said Ethan Keeney, a senior captain. “We’ve been spending more time together since last year. We have a good group here.”
“We want to learn from this whole experience and to mature and understand that life isn’t always guaranteed, but how you deal with challenges as an individual and a group matters,” Locke said. “Your intent really matters, and I want these kids to know we’re going out to win games.”
John Piemontese, head coach of the girls basketball team, also encouraged his players to stay in shape over the summer.
“Like anybody who has to remote teach and work, we had group texts going and trying to look out for each other,” he said. “I told them, ‘If you’re doing something in conditioning or ball handling, then tell your teammates.’ Players were meeting up in driveways or the Eastham basketball courts behind town hall. Our goal was to get prepared regardless of what happens.”
When the girls showed up to their first team practice on Dec. 14, they were in pretty good shape. “I was pleased by the way they took it upon themselves to get ready for the season,” Piemontese said.
Last year, the Nauset girls reached the Division 2 South sectional quarterfinals after going 15-7 in the regular season. They have high hopes for this year.
“We want to win every game,” Piemontese said. “If there’s a postseason tourney, our goal is to win that, too.”
“We’re definitely hoping to win the league,” Burns added. “With the group of girls we have, I think we can make that happen.”
Burns is one of four seniors who have been playing together since fifth grade.
“This season is really important because I’ve trained since the end of last year,” she said. “To showcase all that training is really important for me, and I just love to play with this team.”
Hockey and basketball players are required to wear masks at all times during games and practices and will have to follow some new MIAA rules, like maintaining distance during substitutions or other pauses in the game. But, for the most part, game play will be relatively unaffected.
“We’ve gotten used to the masks,” Burns said. “We had our first interschool scrimmage yesterday, and I think it went real well. [The new rules] didn’t really take away from the game itself, like we thought.”
The girls basketball team’s first scheduled game is at home against the Nantucket Whalers on Friday, Jan. 8 at 4 p.m.
Nauset’s winter sports policy allows two guests per Nauset player to attend home games. Each guest must present a game pass at entrance. No visiting fans, students, or others are allowed at Nauset home games. Nauset fans, students, or others cannot attend away games.
Thursday, Jan. 7
Boys basketball: The Warriors host their first game of the season against the Nantucket Whalers at 4 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 8
Girls and boys swimming: The Warriors will host their first meet of the season at 4 p.m. against St. John Paul II High School. The meet will be held at Willy’s Gym.
Girls basketball: The Warriors host their first game of the season against the Nantucket Whalers at 4 p.m.
Tuesday, Jan. 12
Boys basketball: The Warriors will again play host to the Nantucket Whalers at 4 p.m.
Wednesday, Jan. 13
Girls basketball: The Whalers will travel to Eastham to play the Warriors again at 4 p.m.
Boys ice hockey: The Warriors are scheduled to play the Barnstable Red Raiders at the Hyannis Youth and Community Center at 6 p.m.