Bona men’s soccer adjusts, trains during unusual fall

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jonny Walker

ST. BONVENTURE, NY — This past week, the St. Bonaventure men’s soccer team was cleared to enter phase three of the university’s COVID-19 return to play action plan. 

The plan allows the team to resume contact drills, which were explicitly banned in phase two, but restricts them to training within smaller groups rather than intermingling with the whole team. 

Players, who are still expected to wear face coverings when not actively participating in a workout, were split up into their respective groups based on multiple factors, the most important of which being their proximity to one another on a normal field of play. 

For instance, a left-center back and a left back would be placed in the same group based upon them playing positions that line up adjacent to one another on the field, while also often working together.  

The Atlantic-10—the conference to which all of St. Bonaventure’s NCAA Division I sports programs belong—officially announced its decision to indefinitely postpone all conference-sponsored games and championships way back in July. However, men’s soccer has sought to maintain some semblance of normalcy throughout this fall. 

Despite the lack of games to prepare for, the team has held to a relatively rigorous practice schedule amidst the pandemic, holding training sessions five days a week.  

According to head coach Kwame Oduro, this idea of training for a game that is an indefinite amount of time away works both for and against his squad. 

One of the main points of any practice from a coach’s perspective, Oduro said, is to ,”Implement your philosophies and your principles.” 

The lack of competition for the foreseeable future enables the sixth-year head coach to “Take (my) time getting those principles and ideas to our players.” 

On the other hand, Oduro believes that there is no true way to evaluate where his players are currently at in that process without the test of real, game-time action against an actual opponent. 

“The things that we do in training, we’re not getting to use them in a game,” Oduro said. “Playing against your teammates is one thing, but it’s another thing when you have to play against different competition, which, sometimes, you know very little about. It forces you to actually develop and grow faster.” 

Optimism surrounding the possibility of games being played this fall may be at an all-time low, as, when asked, Oduro said that he does not believe his team will be able to play until at least 2021.

“That’s the bottom line,” he said.

He did, however, point to competition resuming in the spring being much more probable. 

A vaccine, alongside learning from the example of other sports that would have already returned to play by that point, such as football and basketball, has Oduro excited about the possibility of spring soccer.  

Oduro also said that he does not take the COVID-19-related restrictions being imposed upon his team to be over-bearing or unnecessary, and that he and his staff are very much appreciative of the efforts to keep him, his players, and the community safe. 

“Let them know that we thank them for giving us the chance to be able to train and play and do the things that we love the most,” he said.    

Brdarski, Thompson ready to lead SBU women’s soccer through unusual season

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Sean Casey

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — As summer concludes and falls rolls around, one thing that students at St. Bonaventure University can usually rely on is watching Bonnies athletics.

Women’s soccer, one of Bona’s fall sports that has been impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic, has been unable to play its usual schedule.

However, the team has still been working and practicing following the university’s safety protocols because when spring rolls around, they want to be ready for the possibility of games.

Head coach Steve Brdarski discussed what his team has been doing over the past several weeks since student-athletes returned to campus.

“I just wanted to have the team back on the field again,” said Brdarski, whose team just missed the Atlantic 10 tournament in 2019 after finishing with a 7-10-1 record.

In a normal year, the team is usually able to meet and get back onto the field in the spring and build chemistry, both on and off the pitch, but that was taken away from them this year due to COVID-19.

One point that Brdarski made clear was that normal spring semesters not just about getting better at soccer, but also getting chemistry off the field as team. 

He said that in the spring, what he enjoys so much is the banter and team bonding that the team is able to have. In his words, it was, “The only thing that I was thinking about.”

Although the team is practicing, it is not under normal circumstances.

“We are split into two different groups, and go on different sides of the field,” said Alex Thompson, a senior defender/midfielder. “We social distance during practice with no contact or scrimmaging.”

Thompson added that the team usually works on foot skills and passing patterns.

“It is definitely not normal practice, but I think we are going to get into that within the next coming weeks,” she said.

Brdarski had high praise for Thompson’s work ethic and leadership, saying that in 23 years of coaching, he has had “very few” players that compete like she does.

“She drives practices in a way, where she kicks everybody, she doesn’t care who you are,” Brdarski said. “If her grandmother was on the field, she would be kicking her.”

Appreciating the praise, Thompson laughingly said, “Not my grandma.”

Brdarski said that he has been proud of the way his team has found ways to compete with one another despite the special circumstances. He mentioned that the team has a six-week window on how to run the program, progressing more each week.

“We have been really impressed with them because they want the opportunity to kick each other and they want the opportunity to just play,” Brdarski said. “But we, as a coaching staff, are super proud of our girls because they are doing everything we ask.”

With no one on this team, or the entire country, used to practicing amid a global pandemic, you can imagine how it could be difficult to stay focused and engaged. 

Thompson, one of two seniors on the team, has been a leader throughout the entire process. 

“The main thing that me and Dareion (Marrison, a fellow senior) have tried to do is just make the freshmen as comfortable as possible, and also try to keep everyone motivated,” Thompson said.

She said that they have been sending the team inspirational quotes every day to keep spirits high.

With all the bizarre things going on right now, Thompson talked about the little things that have been strange.

“Being here in the fall, I haven’t missed a class yet, which is crazy because I am usually missing classes for games, and I haven’t traveled once so it is very different,” she said.

Brdarski made sure to clarify Thompson’s statement, saying, “Let’s just be clear about what she said there. She usually misses class for games, not because she is not waking up.”  

Going forward, Brdarski is confident in his team’s ability to respond to the adversity surrounding this season.

““Some of the challenges we face in practice is our girls are used to working hard and used to competing,” he said. “So, I think what has been interesting for us as coaches is having to recreate those pictures.”

GELYON: Return of SBU athletics will be result of a team effort

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Nic Gelyon

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — As I spoke to student-athletes, coaches and representatives from the St. Bonaventure University athletic department about their effort to curb COVID-19 and return to action, I found that I wasn’t finding what I expected.

 I was looking for the moral dilemma. The internecine fight. 

Everybody felt too optimistic when I was talking to them. It was all too happy. 

But then I realized that St. Bonaventure has only had three positive coronavirus cases. The whole semester. All positive cases have since recovered. 

There is nothing to criticize. There is nothing to pick apart. There are no battles between coaches and presidents – ahem, Big 10 conference. There is absolutely nothing to be mad at. Nothing to punch the wall about.  

The fact of the matter is that it worked. The communication, the mindset, the plan. It all worked. 

And so, I leave you with this: we cannot become complacent, as a school community and as a society. Vigilance is the only way that the plan will continue to work.

It will take an effort from all. 

  • The NCAA has made November 25 the date when men’s and women’s college basketball will be allowed to begin. As of Friday, no schedule had been released for either season. Teams will not be allowed to play exhibitions or hold scrimmages prior to their first game. 
  • SBU’s COVID-19 return to action plan is, again, currently in its third and final phase. The plan was last updated on Sept. 14. The athletic department has treated athletes as if they had been “sedentary” throughout quarantine, attempting to prevent nagging injuries by getting athletes in the best condition possible. SBU athletic director Tim Kenney, in a statement to The Intrepid, said that the strength and conditioning department plans to ramp up activity in two-week increments, culminating in, hopefully, the playing of games. 
  • Speaking of which- it does not appear that fall sports are going to happen- not with any sort of normalcy anyway. As Oduro told me, teams are more likely to play against teams in the same region, as to avoid the COVID-19 restrictions and risks involved in cross-regional travel. Oduro mentioned the possibility of weekend tournaments involving four or so teams, with all teams – as he emphasized several times – staying in similar environments. 
  • It seems the athletic department is making fan engagement a priority during a time when not only are no sports happening, but college basketball is delayed. “We have stayed in constant communication with our fan base the past several months… to keep Bona Nation updated and entertained,” said Seth Johnson, assistant athletic director for marketing, licensing and fan engagement at SBU. He went on to say that the university is working on plans to keep the fans involved throughout the season, though there likely will be no fans in the stands. 

Sports at SBU are back… kind of

photo: Nic Gelyon/The Intrepid

By Nic Gelyon

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — It’s unlikely that there will be a fall sports season at St. Bonaventure, at least in the traditional sense.

But that hasn’t deterred student-athletes from working diligently over the last six months, preparing as if there will be.  

University athletics have come a long, long way since March. When St. Bonaventure sent students home last semester due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, the athletic department faced the same cloud of uncertainty that has shrouded society for the better part of the last six months.  

The university did not, however, use this uncertainty as a mask for dormancy, or to wait for all the answers to appear out of nowhere.

Coaches and administrators decided, wisely, to get a head start. They immediately began to gather as much information about COVID-19 as possible. 

 “Before school shut down, me and my assistant coach sat down and started doing more research on COVID,” said Kwame Oduro, head men’s soccer coach at SBU.

Oduro was referring to the time in between when his team returned from their winter trip to England and when school went remote. 

“This is a pandemic, man, this is no joke,” he said. “There’s no way we can keep coming to school. That’s when it hit me.” 

The information gathered was relayed quickly to student-athletes to keep them updated, especially as new layers were added weekly to the university’s COVID-19 return to action plan.

“When [Coach Oduro] would get any news from the A-10 or the NCAA, he would just tell us immediately, like schedule a meeting or a Zoom call,” said Cuneyt Vardar, a  junior midfielder on the men’s soccer team. “It would be pretty immediate.” 

In addition to effective communication, realism became a priority for the St. Bonaventure athletic department. 

The department’s actions would display practicality, not perfection- a mindset that is a necessity in 2020. 

“We could have the best laid plans,” St. Bonaventure athletic director Tim Kenney said in a video statement provided to The Intrepid. “But we can’t be naive to think it’s not going to sneak onto campus.” 

The university’s protocol was split into three phases, according to Kenney. 

Phases one and two included activities such as off-campus quarantines, on-campus quarantines, coronavirus education and the gradual progression of strength and conditioning work. 

It might as well have been known as St. Bonaventure’s Coronavirus training camp. 

But training camp is over now. The third phase is pregame. 

In a perfect world, game time for fall sports would be right around the corner, and phase three would involve the actual playing of games. 

For now, though, it is simply an exercise in keeping the athletes fit, gradually increasing intensity in practices. That, of course, is also dependent on the impact that COVID-19 is having on the university. 

Same-sport athletes have been deliberately placed in dorms with each other for this reason. In theory, if athletes surround each other with other athletes, they will, for the most part, stay within similar environments.

Many student-athletes know they will face strange challenges in this new world. Vardar told me that athletes probably will not be allowed to use locker rooms – at least not all at once – or to share towels. 

This does fall in line with the current coronavirus guidelines in the school’s return to action plan. Oduro told me that if fall sports do get off the ground, it will probably only be among teams similar regions, or at the very least teams that are not in restricted states. 

Kenney wants kids to step up in a time of need and take this opportunity to become great leaders. 

“It’s going to take everybody on this campus – not just athletics – in order for us to make this semester a success,” he said. “We can’t let up, and so our kids will have to keep that leadership role and lead by example.” 

Oduro wants the campus community, and especially his athletes, to take this opportunity to reacquaint themselves with SBU and remember how special an experience it is to be on its campus. 

“For all that college experience to still be around, we need to do our part,” Oduro said. “There are going to be some kids that feel like COVID-19 is not going to affect them because they’re young… we have to be a little selfless.” 

Vardar wants to someday become a physical therapist, and the best soccer player he can be. He is going to take the life-changing hand he has been dealt this year and, with hope, make the best of it. 

“I love the anatomy of the body, and I just love to work with people,” Vardar said. “I want to finish my soccer career here at St. Bonaventure.”

Vardar wants to play professional soccer, either in the United States or possibly in Turkey. He has played in Turkey previously, and his uncle has connections to the country. 

“Because of the Coronavirus, (the NCAA) gave us an extra year of eligibility, so for my graduate school at Daeman College,” Vardar said. “I want to play at year of Division II soccer (at Daeman), and that would finish up my college soccer eligibility.”

Fall sports at SBU will continue to practice using safety protocols and COVID-19 testing to ensure the safety of student-athletes and coaches.

And, spoiler alert: According to the NCAA, men’s and women’s basketball can return on Nov. 25.

SBU uses expanded testing to monitor COVID-19

photo: Connor Raine/The Intrepid

By Peter Byrne

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — Before the start of the fall 2020 semester, St Bonaventure University publicly made it their mission to keep students safe from COVID-19 when they return to campus, and throughout the semester.

Prior to arriving at the university, each student was required to test negative COVID, and every student did just that. 

After a successful first two weeks, the school decided to test all 533 of its student-athletes.

Of those tests, 532 came back negative, and the athlete who tested positive then produced back-to-back negative results.

As a result of the testing, the school stated that it would implement a return-to-play action plan.  

Although there have been promising results up to this point, would only student-athletes would be tested?

Thomas Missel, SBU’s chief communications officer, said that the university would begin testing non-athletes, as well.

On Monday, SBU began testing non-student-athletes for the first time since they got to campus.  

“For now, we are using our Sophia rapid testing antigen machine for our surveillance testing of students,” Missel said. “We may integrate some PCR testing with the county’s assistance as time goes on. The goal is to test 20 students every day.”

Since everyone’s return to campus, it has been university’s main goal to keep their students safe during this unusual time.

Missel explained that testing was necessary not only before the semester, but also surveillance testing just about three weeks in.

“We just believed that, along with the mandatory test to come to campus, surveillance testing during the semester was worth doing to gauge our control of the virus on campus,” Missel said.  

It was big news around campus how well the results of student-athlete testing came back last week.

However, the question of whether only student-athletes would get tested came up.

Missel said it was important that athletics get tested because of the nature of close contact practice, and they had to meet higher NCAA-mandated standards regarding.

Therefore, it was important to test student-athletes early in the semester so they could begin their practices as soon as possible.   

“The excellent results that athletics announced last week was a tremendous first sign to give us some confidence that we have a pretty good handle on the situation so far,” Missel said. “That’s a significant cross-section of the student population who all tested negative.”

With the restrictions set from the university since the arrival on campus, there should be no reason to believe the results of these tests will be poor.

And possibly, with another flurry of negative tests, the school can lift some of its COVID-19 restrictions and attempt to take another step in retuning to normalcy.

SBU community works toward easing COVID restrictions

photo: Connor Raine/The Intrepid

By Ryan Surmay

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — When students arrived to St. Bonaventure University on move-in day, they each had to sign a social contract.

To summarize, this contract states that each student always must wear a mask, you cannot have anybody in your room who doesn’t live there and you cannot host or attend gatherings where there is no social distancing.

The contract also outlines the university’s plan to randomly select students for COVID-19 testing.   

As of August 1, there have only been three reported cases of COVID-19, and in each case, the individual has already recovered.

On move-in day, the students were told by resident assistants that these policies would be strict for two to three weeks until the university community gets situated.

But now, almost a month later, none of the restrictions that the university put in place to start the school year have been eased.   

SBU currently has no active cases on campus, which poses the question of when some of the restrictions will be lifted.

“Overall, students have been good on-campus and off-campus,” said Rob DeFazio, SBU’s associate dean of student life. “There have been a few incidents, but they have been addressed.”

Most students, DeFazio said, have followed the guidelines that are in place. An incident on Sept. 5, however, led to 28 students getting suspended the next day for attending a party hosted in an on-campus apartment.   

“There is no date (to ease restrictions) yet, but if we see good results from random testing then we’ll see,” DeFazio said.

Maryanna Garrigan, a freshman, felt that some of the current restrictions don’t make sense.

“I think that since we are doing so well right now, they should make the restrictions less harsh,” Garrigan said.  

DeFazio said that there needs to be more negative results from the school’s random testing before anything can change.

Each day, 20 students are randomly selected to be tested for COVID-19, which equates to 100 students tested per week.

“The first thing would be allowing people on your floor into your room, then people from other buildings,” DeFazio said.

He also stressed the importance of not having any outside visitors on campus.  

While there are still more questions than answers, there is optimism that SBU can continue to monitor the campus community through testing, and take steps toward normalcy on campus.

VIDEO: Hogan and Uveino reflect on busy summer, look ahead to unique school year

By Jeff Uveino and Mike Hogan

ALLEGANY, NY — St. Bonaventure University began its fall semester this week, welcoming students to campus for the first time since March.

As they begin their senior year of undergraduate coursework in SBU’s Jandoli School of Communication, Jeff Uveino and Mike Hogan sat down to reflect on recent experiences as student journalists.

The duo discusses covering the Coronavirus pandemic, summer internships and fellowships across various media outlets, and how they envision student journalism will be different in the upcoming school year.

A link to Uveino and Hogan’s discussion can be found on The Intrepid’s Youtube channel here.

 

COLUMN: Myers reflects on time at SBU; how COVID-19 changed senior year

photo: Jeff Uveino

By Justin Myers

Your senior year in college is not something you can redo in life. You only get one chance to make the lasting memories you’ll never forget before heading into the real world. But for this year’s class, we don’t get that opportunity.  

When the Coronavirus became more serious back in March, there was a lot of uncertainty about not only my classes senior year, but the safety of society .

During my senior year at St. Bonaventure University, I was making memories with everyone at school because I knew in that May it would be all over. Whether that was taking a trip to Toronto to see the Bonnies play, game nights at my apartment, or doing activities on campus, I made sure to do everything I wanted before it all ended.  

With the school year being cut two months early, there were so many more memories that were supposed to happen. That was the part I was looking forward to the most, even though I was dreading the end of college.

For the past 3 years, I saw senior classes before me get their last spring weekend, last time on campus, and last goodbyes before they headed into the real world. With my senior year being cut short, that’s the part that hurts the most.  

Like every other college student in America, I had to adjust to being back home and being taught online for the rest of the semester. I know it was rough on everybody, but especially us seniors, as we had to give rushed goodbyes to people who have been part of our lives for the past four years. 

Being at home has given me a lot of time to reflect on my time at St. Bonaventure. When alumni told me that being at SBU for 4 years will be the best years of your life, they didn’t lie.

Bonaventure has helped me develop relationships with professors, faculty, and friends that will last a lifetime. For that, I will always be thankful for all the memories I had time to make while being at school.  

While today is a happy day for the class of 2020 as we start the new chapters of our lives, it is also a sad day because I won’t be able to walk the stage with my classmates. Even though we won’t be together today I will cherish all the memories we made during our four years together. Hopefully one day we can get the graduation we deserve. 

Once a Bonnie always a Bonnie.