What to expect: fall athletics edition

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Nathan Herde

Women’s soccer, who played a shortened schedule in the spring, will return to the pitch for a full fall season starting on Aug. 24.

Maddie Loverich, Editor-in-chief

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Athletes, coaches, and fans of Linfield University athletics can expect a return to normalcy in the fall, according to Linfield’s athletic director, Garry Killgore. 

“We can’t wait to be able to celebrate with people and really enhance the Linfield community again,” Killgore said. “I absolutely can’t wait to see us go at it again and compete to the best of our abilities against all of our conference competitors and people from other parts of the region and country.”

Normal, however, comes with a few stipulations. 

“There will always be some reservations about how we do this,” Killgore said. “That just keeps us on our game to make sure we do everything we can to protect everybody to the best of our abilities, and within what is true for public health and what is true for science.”

Now that 48% of U.S. citizens are fully vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that fully-vaccinated individuals can resume activities without a mask or social distancing requirements, which is accepted by the NCAA, state, and local guidelines. 

In May, Linfield announced that vaccinations will be required for all returning students, staff, and faculty. However, there are opportunities for exemption from the policy in the case of medical or religious conflicts. Many experts suggest that population immunity, the point when unvaccinated people are believed to be mostly protected from COVID-19, is reached when 70% of any given population is fully vaccinated. 

Linfield does not have an exact percentage goal for vaccination, but Linfield’s Director of the Student Health, Wellness and Counseling Center Patricia Haddeland predicts that the percentage at Linfield will end up being higher than the 70% threshold. 

The NCAA currently recommends that unvaccinated athletes should continue to wear masks and social distance until their team reaches 85% immunity. They also suggest that unvaccinated athletes should be regularly tested for COVID until that threshold is reached. At that point, athletes would no longer need to test. 

At Linfield, it’s currently unconfirmed whether or not this practice will be implemented. If so, Killgore suggests that there is a possibility that unvaccinated athletes could be held responsible for covering the cost of their recurring testing. However, he emphasized that no final decisions have been made. 

Competition is expected to resume as normal in the fall semester and athletic venues will return to full capacity for spectators. Wearing a mask will be optional for fully-vaccinated fans, which is in accordance with local and state health directives. 

“There will be signage indicating that if you are unvaccinated, then it is highly recommended that you wear a mask,” Killgore said. “We really have to rely on people being honest and straightforward. I would hope that they would not be so selfish as to ignore that and put other people at risk.”

Linfield’s football team will face Simon Fraser University in their first home game on Sept. 11. The matchup against the Division-II opponent will be the team’s first competition since the fall of 2019. Football fans also can expect the return of “Streak Street,” where the two blocks in front of Memorial Stadium are dedicated to game-day concessions, merchandise, and activities. Season tickets are now on sale

Wildcat senior offensive guard Matt Metcalf, who was named as a preseason All-American in 2020 by D3football.com, anticipates a year for the history books. 

“With the amount of veterans coming back and the amount of experience the younger guys have, we have a chance to take it all,” Metcalf said. “All of us are hungrier than ever to put the pads back on and compete every day. We have a good stretch of tough opponents in the first half of our season, which is going to test the will, strength and unity of this group of guys. If anyone can handle it, it’s this team.”

Men’s and women’s soccer will both face Division-II opponents in their non-conference season openers on Aug. 23 and 24. The women, who led the Northwest Conference with a 7-1 record in the spring, will head to Monmouth, Ore. to face Western Oregon University. The men will travel to Lacey, Wash. to compete against Saint Martin’s University. 

Linfield cross country will also compete in a home race shortly after the school year begins. The Linfield Harrier Classic 4K/6K is scheduled for Sept. 3.

All plans are subject to change in the case of a campus outbreak or changes in COVID regulations locally and statewide. In that case, protocols may change to protect the health of the Linfield community. 

“[If we have to change the rules], you can take it to the bank that we’re only doing that to protect everybody’s health and well-being,” Killgore said. “Ultimately, that’s what it’s really about. But with that said, fingers crossed and knock on wood, we’re going to be back to normal and we want to invite everybody to have a great time.”