USAO sports amid the COVID-19 Pandemic


USAO assistant soccer coaches Tony Orsi, left and Niall Crick, right looking at the schedule for the busy week ahead.

Erin Lynch

This season, athletics, and soccer in particular, will be different from last year because of new changes implemented by USAO to protect athletes, students, staff and fans from COVID-19.

One of the biggest changes coming will be USAO games carried in both the fall and spring. The men and women’s post season national tournament and conference games will be held next trimester.

According to USAO athletic director Brisco McPherson, USAO has implemented new protocols for athletes because of COVID-19, which will mostly affect men and women’s soccer.

“We tested 224 people last Wednesday. Coaches, players, managers, anyone who is in the athletic department,” said McPherson. “There were a few positives but nothing alarming.”

McPherson said athletes now get a temperature check and fill out a questionnaire before each practice and game and log any symptoms. He added athletes will only wear mask on the sidelines but not on the field or while practicing.

Assistant Coach Niall Crick said he knows what to expect this year.

“We know we’re going to be good again. It’s just about being healthy and getting lucky at the right time,” Crick said. “The team has been progressing the last three to four years to compete on a national level so the goal this year is to get back in the top 15 teams in the country.”

Leading goal scorer Emma Rice still has two years. All-Americans Aubry Ruttman and Mackenzie Holub are also back this season. USAO looks to defend its 2019 conference regular-season title and capture its fourth SAC Tournament championship in the upcoming season.

For Crick and other soccer coaches, international students have been a concern. After arrival, these athletes had to quarantine for seven days after which they got a COVID-19 test. If it came back negative, they were allowed out of quarantine and back to campus. With borders still closed between the U.S. and many countries, USAO is missing undergraduates from Brazil, Ghana, Egypt, and Columbia. These students are doing classes online wherever they are until they can safely come back to campus.

Thais Duarte, a communication senior and soccer player who is still in Brazil because of border closures, said she is looking forward to finishing her senior year strong. She said she is spending her time practicing drills and exercising with her brother around 4:30 a.m. to avoid contact with people around them.

“My biggest concern is getting sick,” Thais said. “I know my family and friends here in Brazil are taking the right precautions but I’m not so sure about how things are in the U.S.”

For the men’s soccer team, players are staying motivated and focused on the spring season. According to Juan Arenas Lucas, “At the end of the day, all the players of the team have almost the same problems with this situation, so we empathize with each other. We are more of a team going through all these changes together.”

One negative change for the fall is that no fans will be in the stands. Spectators will not be allowed in the fall, but all games will be streamed through the athletics website page. Upcoming games include Sep. 12 against Hastings (women) McPherson College (men) and Sep. 16 against Bacone (men and women).

For information or updates, check the athletics Twitter account, @USAOlive and @usaosoccer, as well as the athletics page on the USAO website.

Erin Lynch is a senior communication major from Yukon.