While his Discovery Canyon girls' soccer team laced up for its season opener against Wheat Ridge on Thursday, there was only one word that came to mind for coach Matt Saul.
Just hours earlier, the Colorado High School Activities Association made a controversial decision. The state's spring sports season — which also included baseball, lacrosse, track and field, girls' golf, girls' tennis and boys' swimming and diving — was suspended until April 6 amid a global coronavirus pandemic.
Nonetheless, the Thunder chose to play that Thursday afternoon and lost 1-0. A loss is a loss, but it was different this time. This might've been the only time the Thunder play this season. Other teams across the Pikes Peak region also got to experience the same thing as it was up to them that day to play before the suspension officially started Friday.
"A little surreal," Saul said. "It didn't change the fact that we had a game of soccer to play."
The word "surreal" was commonly used this past week — at the high school level to professional sports. March Madness was canceled. The NBA season was postponed. Even the state boys' and girls' basketball tournaments were canceled, providing a bittersweet ending to the likes of the St. Mary's girls' and TCA boys' teams, who advanced to their respective state semifinals.
The decision caused an uproar, to the point that an online petition was started to let the girls and boys finish off their season. Some called it "absolutely ridiculous" or "absolutely ludicrous" when it came to the state basketball tournaments, according to comments posted on The Gazette Preps Facebook page. A Vanguard boys' basketball player questioned it.
However, the decision to suspend the spring sports season was also met with support. Coaches and even some fans agreed it was the right thing to do, based on social media comments.
"It's not just sports being affected, it's everyone," Saul said. "It's every part of the community. It affects everyone, not just the players. We just hope for the best."
CHSAA commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green said she had a conference call with more than 50 state administrators earlier this week, ultimately deciding to suspend the spring sports season until early April. However, "the situation will be monitored and evaluated with key decision-makers from around the state to determine when, or if, to resume the spring season," CHSAA said in a statement.
Teams and players throughout the region are bummed but they're all hoping to get back into action soon.
"We, of course, are disappointed that the golf season has been put on hold," TCA girls' golf coach Bob Gravelle said. "Hopefully, the cancellation will not be very long, but there is that possibility. Seeing all the professional sports and especially golf do the same makes me think that caution with this virus must be the right way to go."