Players can finally lace up their cleats, practice serves and throw on their goggles and caps while fans can fire up their computers to watch their favorite teams return to play.
Spring sports are beginning to return to Long Beach State, after being placed on pause nearly a year ago. It was announced on Feb. 1 of this year that spring sports could proceed with activities, following COVID-19 protocols.
Golf, softball, and beach volleyball have already started their seasons, while Dirtbags baseball and women’s water polo are set to begin to play within the next couple of weeks.
“The Big West is excited to take the next step toward spring competition,” Big West Commissioner Dan Butterly said. “Our focus remains on the health, safety, and well-being of our student-athletes and we will continue to evaluate the pandemic’s effect on our ability to provide a safe environment for competition.”
In light of COVID-19, the NCAA gave the option to all student-athletes to opt-out of the 2020-21 competition with no effect on their eligibility.
The only opt-out from Long Beach was the women’s tennis team, in a near-unanimous decision from the players. Head coach Jenny Hilt-Costello and Long Beach State Director of Athletics, Andy Fee confirmed the program’s decision in a statement to athletics Mar. 26.
“I fully support their well-thought-out decision,” Hilt-Costello said in the statement. “We will be ready to defend our Big West championship beginning next fall during a full 2021-22 season.”
Due to the ongoing pandemic, things will be drastically different for players, coaches, staff and fans. Changes range from mandatory COVID-19 testing per game and limited travel to adjustments in schedules and shortened seasons.
Protocols in place will require COVID-19 testing for all student-athletes at least three times per week.
Limited travel will cause schedule anomalies for some teams. For the Dirtbags, they will only be playing four-game series against each conference opponent during the weekends. Teams can schedule a non-conference game before Big West play begins, but they can only play one team per week.
The softball program is already off to a rocky start, having their season paused twice already due to COVID-19 regulations. Through two games softball stands at 0-2 record.
Softball teams in the Big West were issued a similar protocol as baseball. They will play three-game series against opponents while in conference play. Teams have the option of adding a fourth game to the series, but it will count as a non-conference game. Like baseball, softball will be limited to playing one opponent per week.
Both baseball and softball begin their conference play on Mar. 19. The Big West regular season will determine the NCAA representative at the NCAA Division beginning on June 4. The NCAA softball selections begin on May 16.
Women’s water polo teams will face each conference opponent once per season and will have an option of adding a second matchup against each school. They are also given the option to move up any conference match if both teams mutually agree. If teams move up their contests and then wish to play again later in the season, it will not count toward conference standings.
Big West play for women’s water polo begins Mar. 12 and championships are set for Apr. 30 to May 2.
Beach Volleyball began its season on Feb 26. with a win and loss against Stanford. Through four games, the team has posted a record of 2-2.
Select games will be available to stream on the Big West website or on the team’s broadcast partners on ESPN or Spectrum. Baseball, softball and women’s water polo games will be streamed, while beach volleyball will provide live stats updates on the athletics website. There will be more updates on each team’s page.
Currently, fans are not allowed to attend any games but are able to purchase a fan cutout for this peculiar season. They can be purchased online at www.longbeachstate.com/springcutouts or you can call or text “cutout” to the Long Beach State Box Office at (562) 985-4949.