TENNERTON – It was an unfortunate set of circumstances that the Buckhannon-Upshur Buccaneer and Lady Buc soccer teams had to go through during a three-day period from Saturday to Monday but hopefully there will be that light at the end of tunnel for both teams.
On Saturday’s DHHR color-coded map, Upshur County remained orange which meant that both soccer teams would be denied the opportunity to play in their respective sectional tournaments.
Then on Sunday, as different options were being discussed, Buckhannon-Upshur athletic director Rick Reynolds received word from the WVSSAC that pending negative tests from the student-athletes, the two teams could play.
Then just a couple hours later, Reynolds received word from the WVSSAC that the governor’s office retracted the change that would have allowed the two teams to play pending a negative test.
Efforts from The Record Delta sports department on Monday to reach out to the governor’s office to find out the reason why the WVSSAC verdict was retracted were not returned.
Then on Monday, Reynolds notified the Delta and through the efforts of the WVSSAC and all the teams in Region I (B-U, Bridgeport, Brooke, John Marshall, Preston, Wheeling Park and University), that the group agreed to move the sectional and regional games to next week.
“Overall, this has been a very stressful experience for all of us,” remarked Buckhannon-Upshur boys’ head coach Mike Donato. “Essentially we’ve been left hanging, waiting on a decision to be made, but I can’t thank our administration, coaching staffs, players and parents who campaigned on our behalf.”
Donato stated that no reason was given to either the school or teams on why Justice’s office rescinded the WVSSAC’s offer to play, nor was it addressed in Governor Justice’s press conference Monday afternoon.
The sectional schedule will have both teams playing their first-round sectional games on Monday with the sectional championship slated for Wednesday.
The third-seeded Bucs will visit second-seed Bridgeport Monday at 6 p.m. and the second-seed Lady Bucs will host third-seed University at 6 p.m.
The sectional championships will be played at the highest-seeded team’s location on Wednesday at 6 p.m.
For Jackie Zuliani and her Lady Bucs, she said the whole ordeal was a disheartening experience for her team.
“We were preparing for the worst on the Saturday map because of the numbers and where we were on the map,” stated Zuliani. “It was very disheartening and I felt so bad for all the athletes in orange or red counties, but I felt very sad for our girls. When we thought our season was over, you think back about how the girls have worked hard and played hard this season. I really feel sorry for our six seniors. Unfortunately with these uncertain times, we started playing each game as though it may be our last, but I know that isn’t how they planned on playing their last high school season.”
Donato agreed that the potential ending for his Bucs was hard to take for the seniors on his team.
“When I found out Saturday that our season was over, it was gut wrenching,” stated Donato. “It was a feeling like I've never had in my coaching career to have a season taken away without actually seeing the result on the field. My heart broke for our players, especially our seniors.”
The opportunity for the Bucs and Lady Bucs to play next week is still dependent on the county returning to a green, yellow, or gold status.
“We received the great news on Monday that we can still play in our sectional tournament, but we need to be gold or better,” noted Zuliani. “We hope the community will go get tested to help us out with this. We are still hopeful to have our community as well as other local communities getting involved and supporting us, but we still could lose the game if we are in orange or red on Saturday.”
Donato added, “Now that the WVSSAC has decided to let us play, it's like we got a second wind. The outpouring of support we got from social media, texts and emails went a long way to support us and our cause. All that we asked for was a fighting chance, and that's what we got. Now it's up to us to take advantage of this opportunity. Again, a huge thank you goes out to all those athletic directors and coaches who helped and supported us from the get go. This wouldn’t have been possible without their blessing.”