Mary Harrison, staff writer
After a year of unusual sports seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all fall sports are confirmed to play this semester.
Cross country, football, volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer are cleared to compete in front of full capacity crowds, according to Berry Director of Athletics Angel Mason.
Sports that are considered dual-season, including golf, tennis and equestrian, are also set to play.
“Everything is pending how COVID plays out, and each individual competition will be based on the negative test of the home and visiting teams,” Mason said. “But we are scheduled, we have full-year schedules, our conference as a whole has a plan and all championships are as scheduled with the NCAA and IHSA as of now.”
This comes as the Berry Athletics Department is transitioning out of a disrupted 2020-2021 school year. Fall sports were postponed and played alongside regular spring sports, and activities often offered at games were absent due to coronavirus regulations.
“There was no concessions stands, there were no gates [keepers], there was no promotional giveaway,” Mason said. “There was none of that.”
This fall, however, Mason said that concessions stands and stadium gates will be operational. Although more items will be sold individually packaged, open air foods, like pizza, will not be offered. How and if popcorn will be offered is still undecided, Mason explained.
Coaches and athletes are also diving into the fall 2021 season with momentum from the abbreviated, yet successful, seasons last semester.
Head Men’s Soccer Coach Richard Vardy said that his team started strong in preseason practice this fall.
“We have a large returning group, so people that are experienced and have just come off a winning season,” Vardy said of the SAA conference tournament reigning champions. “It feels as though we haven’t really skipped a beat, the guys are playing well, they’re in good shape and it does feel as though they’re playing at midseason level. It doesn’t feel like the first week of preseason.”
According to Vardy, he feels everyone is excited to be playing and ready to get back on the field.
The shortened offseason also energized the Vikings volleyball team. According to outside hitter Jazzy Innis, the regular season champs view it as an opportunity to quickly avenge their sole spring defeat to B i r m i n g h a m – Southern College, who they play in the Cage Athletic Center on Sept. 19.
“I never played at Berry when it was normal,” relayed Innis, a sophomore. “All I’ve known was COVID. Our team definitely generates a lot of energy from the crowd, because when they get hype, we get hype.”
Innis encourages her peers to support the athletic teams by attending sporting events.
“Keep showing up,” Innis said. “We like to go watch other sports teams, and when they come watch us, it’s really helpful, because we generate a lot of energy from the crowd.”
Students should also look for the Athletics Department giveaways to start back, both in-person and virtually through the Viking Athletics social media and the athletic director’s social media.
Spectator capacity is limited only by venue size, not by health regulations, with the only indoor locale being the Cage. Other on-campus venues for fall and dual-season sports are the Bob Pearson Field for soccer, Valhalla Stadium for football, the Rome Tennis Center, Clara Bowl for cross country and the Gunby Equine Center.
Berry students can attend all games for free, according to the athletic director. The only ticketed events are football games, where one ticket per student is available before gameday from the Krannert information desk.
“Our athletic competitions are something that we love to see our students at,” Mason said. “It’s a great way to build community, make new friends, get engaged around having Viking pride.”
Fans of visiting schools and community members must pay $10 per ticket. No proof of vaccination or negative COVID- 19 tests are required of outside spectators at this time, and masks are only required at indoor venues.
M a s o n emphasized that Berry Athletics works to make gameday a fun experience for all involved.
“Your peers like having you there,” the athletic director said. “We try to create a home environment that makes it difficult for visitors but makes it really fun for the home team. We want people to come, be loud, be proud, be positive, cheer for your Vikings and not against the opposing [team].”