The Pioneer Valley Interscholastic Athletic Conference approved the framework of a fall athletic season this week.
Key to the plan is moving teams into bubble leagues. With some exceptions, this will allow for schools to compete based on geography, competitive level and travel.
“I think we kind of knew this was coming,” PVIAC Executive Secretary Lou Conte said in a virtual meeting with athletic directors on Friday. “We prepared for this. We think it will help us have a great fall season.”
The plan isn’t finalized yet as some schools haven’t announced their intention to play fall athletics, and some schools could ultimately switch leagues.
A majority of the teams in the leagues are competing in soccer, cross country and golf.
Currently, the Hampshire East will feature teams east of the Connecticut River: Easthampton, Gateway Regional, Hampshire Regional, St. Mary, Smith Vocational and Westfield Technical.
The Hampshire West will feature teams west of the river: Amherst Regional, Belchertown, Granby, Monson, Palmer, Pathfinder, Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School (PVCICS), South Hadley and Ware.
The Hampshire League will likely look different when the season starts on Sept. 18.
Pathfinder will learn its fall fate on Sept. 16, while Palmer has yet to announce its decision. Should those two schools play, the Hampshire West is expected to be split into two divisions, with one that features Amherst, Belchertown, Granby and South Hadley. The other would have Monson, Palmer (if approved), Pathfinder (if approved) and Ware. PVCICS would then move from the West to the East.
Hampden County will have three leagues. The West will feature Agawam, Holyoke, Northampton, Westfield and West Springfield. The East will feature Central, East Longmeadow, Ludlow, Longmeadow and Minnechaug.
The Springfield League will feature: Bay State Academy, Commerce, Duggan Academy, Hampden Charter, Renaissance, Sabis, Sci-Tech, Pioneer Christian, Pope Francis and Putnam.
Leagues for girls volleyball and field hockey will look different due to the small number of teams participating in those sports.
Girls volleyball Division A: Amherst Regional, Belchertown, Easthampton, Holyoke, Paulo Freire, Pioneer Christian, Smith Vocational and Ware.
Girls volleyball Division B: Agawam, East Longmeadow, Longmeadow, Ludlow, Minnechaug, Westfield and West Springfield.
Field hockey, Hampden West: Agawam, Hampshire Regional, Holyoke, Northampton, Westfield and West Springfield.
Hampden East: Belchertown, East Longmeadow, Longmeadow, Minnechaug and South Hadley.
Gymnastics will feature Agawam, Hampshire, Minnechaug and Westfield. Chicopee Comp could join the mix. Chicopee schools haven’t announced their intention for fall sports yet.
Schedules are expected to be finalized within the next two weeks. Teams can expect to play 10-12 games for team sports and five-six dual meets for cross country.
There will be no independent games.
“We’re going into uncharted waters,” Conte said.
According to the MIAA, spectators must practice social distancing while the number of spectators is determined in compliance with the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and Department of Public Health (DPH) guidelines.
The PVIAC stated no fans will attend indoor girls volleyball matches. Amherst Regional is the lone school that will offer outdoor volleyball.
The PVIAC stated that only the home team can have fans at facilities. Families that transport athletes to away games cannot attend games.
Schools have the option to strengthen guidelines in regards to fans.
“It’s not going to be easy, but we have to take a step,” Conte said.
The PVIAC will meet again next week.
The Northampton School Committee unanimously approved fall sports Thursday night. The Blue Devils will compete in cross country, soccer, field hockey and golf.
Hopkins Academy will compete in golf and cross country against teams in Franklin County. The school is affiliated with the Franklin County Athletic Directors Association. That group announced that Franklin County schools will participate in golf, cross country and field hockey and only compete against teams from its county. Franklin County elected to move soccer and girls volleyball to the second fall season that will be held after the winter season and before the spring season.
Because Franklin County will not have soccer, Hopkins Academy announced earlier this week that it will move soccer to the second fall season. Coaches will be allowed training sessions.
Mike Moran can be reached at [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @mikemoranDHG.