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At least for now, a return to normal

“It’s a definite now,” said Bethlehem Catholic singles player Cara Magliochetti, as if raising a flag on the fall sports season’s opening day of tennis this Monday when teams in the EPC did, in fact, play.

In the Northampton County Division, Becahi took on Easton, Freedom faced Northampton, and Liberty played Nazareth, and even with a good amount of uncertainty in the air, there was a greater feeling of safety among players and coaches.

“Last week we had an official week of preseason and optionals the week before, so we got well-adjusted to precautions and things of that sort, and I feel pretty good about it,” said Becahi coach George Harmanos. “We’re outdoors and there’s no real close contact.”

Northampton’s tennis team went so far as to keep close contact at a minimum on the bus ride to Freedom.

“We traveled together here, but only one person per seat,” said Northampton’s Olivia Tepes. “I feel completely safe. With all the guidelines, we’re using a lot of caution.”

The Konkrete Kids are also going the extra mile at home matches.

“We’re going to have sanitizers on every court, sanitize racquets and scoreboards between sets, and the girls have been great with the masks,” said Northampton coach Kim Davis. “This is a pretty scary virus, and for me, I’m in the danger category, but our kids are doing what they need to do. I feel safe with these kids.”

Although masks were not worn during Monday’s matches, players put them on after their individual matches were completed.

“I think we’re taking the proper precautions during this time, but it’s a scary time so we’re being extra careful,” said Becahi’s Taylor Adams.

For seniors like Becahi’s Shannon Stewart, she doesn’t want to see what happened to last year’s seniors, happen to this year’s seniors.

“I was a little scared my senior season was going to get taken away from me,” she said. “I’m really glad we have a season, and even though districts is up in the air, it’s just nice to play.”

And for varsity newcomers like Northampton’s Carissa Andrew, everything is a first.

“This year is something new, playing on varsity and all the new corona guidelines, so I’m looking forward to getting to be on the court this year,” Andrew said.

With many teams holding voluntary practices since June, players were beyond readiness for real competition.

“We’ve been practicing for so long, just to get a match in, we’re getting tired of practicing,” said Freedom coach Mark Sigmon. “We’re under strict protocol, so they’re ready to play, and everyone feels fine, everyone feels safe, and they were itching to play.

“They get COVID-checked every time, they go home, they’re with the tennis team, they’re not partying. As a result, I don’t see a problem. In two weeks, we’ll know what the story is, but you’ve got to try.”

Freedom’s Keri Saulino realized that putting uncertainty aside was the key to winning her first match of this unusual season.

“I wasn’t sure- first singles match, first match of the season, COVID adjustments, you get nervous for your first game, so when you start getting used to it, getting your head into the game rather than what’s going to happen, it’s easier to play,” she said.

No matter which side of the win-loss column Becahi, Easton, Freedom, Northampton, Liberty, and Nazareth were on, what mattered on Monday was that they played.

“I didn’t necessarily think it was going to happen but I really hoped it would,” said Northampton’s Abby Beil. “It felt like you were back where you were supposed to be.”