High school and college sports face new wave of delays, cancellations during omicron surge

For the past three weeks, the omicron surge has caused a slew of game cancellations and postponements for local teams. The blow first hit the college level, where Long Beach State has recently spent more time announcing game cancellations than actually playing them.

The men’s basketball program had six consecutive games canceled from Dec. 18 to Jan. 4, including its first three Big West Conference matchups. After Tuesday’s trip to face rival Cal State Fullerton was canceled, LBSU scrambled to schedule a game against Westcliff University on Wednesday night at Walter Pyramid. The Beach shook off the rust of their 24-day layoff to pick up a 90-64 win over the NAIA opponent.

“After six straight games being canceled and the disappointment yesterday of not having Fullerton, to get back out there today was just great,” said Long Beach State head coach Dan Monson after Wednesday’s long-awaited victory. “Nobody’s played since before Christmas, and some were in quarantine during that time, and it showed. That’s why we played the game.”

Senior point guard Colin Slater led Long Beach State with 23 points in the win, and he reflected on how the past few weeks have affected the players.

“There were a lot of moments where it was challenging,” Slater admitted. “After games get canceled, we’d meet up and sit together and talk. It was the main thing that we just kind of stuck together and we were like, ‘Hey dude, I know that we’re all frustrated. If we want to hang out with somebody, let’s hang out with each other.’”

Game cancellations have also impacted the women’s basketball program, which has played just two of its scheduled six games over the past month. They’ll attempt to return to action on Jan. 13 at UC Santa Barbara.

The men’s volleyball program, ranked No. 4 in the country, is currently on a 10-day pause due to COVID protocols and had to cancel its first three matches of the season.

The wave of COVID cases has had an even larger impact on the high school sports scene, and the schedules for every winter sport have been affected. As Moore League games resumed following winter break, at least one game was postponed or canceled every single day last week.

On Tuesday, the first-place girls’ soccer showdown between Millikan and Wilson was postponed. The next day, all of the Moore League basketball games were called off due to positive COVID tests within various programs.

The Long Beach Poly boys’ basketball team was scheduled to play four league games over the span of six days last week, but had to postpone all of them due to positive tests among its players. Once the team’s quarantine period has concluded, they’ll then need time to practice and prepare for a return to the court, meaning their next five games could be impacted through the end of this week.

That creates a scheduling backlog that will be difficult to overcome, but head coach Shelton Diggs remains hopeful that things will get resolved.

“Our athletic director and the league are working on rescheduling those games, but it’s five games we’ll have to squeeze in,” said Diggs. “It is what it is. It’s frustrating because we have some good momentum but the NBA is going through it, college is going through it, I knew it was inevitable to some extent. We would rather not go through it at all, but if it has to happen it’s better now than the playoffs. It just feels like something everyone is going to have to deal with this month.”

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