WITH SPORTS RETURNING TO ACTION IN FULL FORCE, SOUTHEASTERN ATHLETICS IS IN THE MIDST OF ITS MOST EXCITING SPRING IN PROGRAM HISTORY.
The jam-packed spring came as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last August, all of the seasons of the fall sports— cross country, football, soccer, and volleyball—were postponed and moved to the spring.
“We’re excited about the spring and for our student-athletes to be able to return to the field and for our fans to create a great atmosphere for competition,” Southeastern Director of Athletics Jay Artigues commented. “Our student-athletes need it and our community needs it. Our student-athletes train to compete, they don’t train to train.”
The limited capacity set forth by the state has given fans an opportunity to safely support the Lions and Lady Lions this spring, according to Artigues.
“We need our fans to follow all the safety and health protocols in place,” Artigues said. “We will provide a great environment for student-athletes and fans that everyone can enjoy safely.”
The spring is already quite busy in a normal year with the conclusion of the men’s and women’s basketball seasons, as well as the start of track and field, baseball, softball, golf, beach volleyball, and tennis—all sports that had their seasons halted at the start of the pandemic in March 2020. A year’s worth of athletics entertainment has been condensed into one three-plus month period that gives Southeastern fans plenty of ways to support the Lions and Lady Lions.
Fans have had the opportunity to return to the stands this spring, with state and local guidelines strictly adhered to. On March 3, sporting events in the state of Louisiana moved from 25 percent capacity limitation to 50 percent.
Southeastern head football coach Frank Scelfo, whose team opened its spring schedule on Feb. 27 at Sam Houston, is excited to have his team back on the field.
“We’re excited to get back playing,” Scelfo said. “After the disappointment of no fall season, we’re just really thankful to have the opportunity to compete for a championship this spring.”
Southeastern head tennis coach Jason Hayes and his squad opened their season on Jan. 30. Hayes said he and his team looked at the extra time to prepare for the season as a positive.
“Not playing matches in the fall will have an effect on us, but we try to take a positive outlook on our situation,” Hayes said. “We benefitted from the extra practice time, and we’re a better team for it. This group has a great attitude and wants to put the work in and get better every day. I don’t know where we’ll end up, but I’m really pleased with where we’re starting. We’re just excited to have the opportunity to play again.”
Southeastern head soccer coach Chris McBride echoed many of Hayes’ sentiments in terms of the Lady Lions using the extra time to prepare for their Feb. 12 opener.
“It’s been a little different,” said McBride. “By not playing in the fall, we had about two or three months to prepare for the season and to allow the freshmen to get acclimated to the college lifestyle. Normally they have to just jump right into the season as soon as they get on campus. But this year we’ve had the time to prepare for months with the entire team able to bond and play together.”
Head women’s basketball coach Ayla Guzzardo, whose team has gone through many obstacles since opening its season on Thanksgiving Eve, said the situation has made Southeastern student-athletes appreciate the privilege of competition even more. Perhaps no Southeastern squad received a bigger gut punch than the Lady Lions, who earned a spot in the 2019-20 Southland Conference Tournament—its first postseason appearance in eight seasons—only to have the tournament canceled right before tip-off.
“We know what it’s like to have a game taken away from us,” Guzzardo commented. “It’s made our players realize what a blessing it is to be able to play every time we take the court.”