BEVERLY, MA — The lights were back on at North Field this week. The athletes took the field wearing their official Endicott College uniforms. The cameras were in place to film the action.
Yet, there were no students in the stands. No families cheering the players on along the sidelines. And no bus carrying an opposing college team into the Gulls' domain for battle on the turf — all due to the coronavirus health crisis that caused the Commonwealth Coast Conference to cancel all intercollegiate fall contests.
For seniors such as Taylor Farrin, a CCC First-Team All-Conference from Danvers on the Endicott field hockey team, and Jaymie Caponigro, a senior captain from Swampscott on the women's soccer team, the intra-squad scrimmages livestreamed to their families at home is the best they can hope for to gain a sense of athletic spark in a year when they have lost so much due to the pandemic.
"I grew up playing field hockey," Farrin, the former Bishop Fenwick of Peabody star goalie who was a Division III New England East Region as a sophomore and junior at Endicott, told Patch. "It was my dream of playing in college. I excelled at it. I loved the experience of going to NCAAs and that our team got pretty far.
"It's kind of a bummer when you get the news that's over."
While the school determined this summer that there would be no fall season, Endicott did allow for a gradual phasing in of team workouts. At first, they were in small groups with no contact, but as the weeks went along, and there were no outbreaks on campus, the fall sports allowed to play ramped up to full teams practices.
On Wednesday, the soccer teams played the first of three intra-squad scrimmages under the lights, with the field hockey team set to play its first game on Thursday.
"You have to stay positive and show up to practice with whatever we are able to do with a good attitude to set an example for the younger players," Farrin said. "That's good they are streaming the (scrimmage) to our parents. They love watching us play. I think they miss it more than us sometimes.
"I love being an athlete in general. It's tough. But I'm making the most of it."
Caponigro said the keyword for her and her teammates all summer and fall has been "unpredictable."
She said she felt "terrible" for the spring athletes when their seasons were cut short amid the worsening health crisis in March. The hope at first was that things would be all better by the time her senior soccer season started in the fall.
"As the time got closer reality set in that we weren't exactly going to be able to get to that place," she told Patch she slowly realized this summer.
While it's not the same as suiting up and heading to Biddeford, Maine for a game against heated rival University of New England in front of a homecoming horde of parents and friends, one thing Farrin, Caponigro and other fall season athletes have this fall that their spring counterparts didn't for most of the season is each other.
When campuses abruptly closed in March, longtime teammates were sent scattering through the region with contact among the athletes used to seeing each other almost every day limited to Facetimes, phone calls, text messages and the occasional Zoom.
This fall, Endicott students are back on campus. And, while coronavirus restrictions can be frustrating and intense, the athletes do get to experience the team bonding that is such a big part of sports at most any level.
"I would definitely love to be competing again for a CCC championship," Caponigro said. "But that doesn't look like it's in the cards. But it's definitely good to be around people who are going through the same thing you are so you have a shoulder you can lean on.
"You just try to have fun and make as many memories as you can."
Farrin said the entire campus experience is much different. As a psychology major, she lives on campus, but only attends class in-person once a week. The rest of the time is spent at practice, in small groups outside with teammates and friends, or in her room where there is a maximum of four people allowed at a time and curfew is 9 p.m.
"The social aspect of it is not there at all," she allowed. "Masks everywhere. No big events. No parties. You have to go at least once a week to get corona-tested."
The hope for both standout athletes is that this is not how it will end in their respective careers.
The conference has left open the possibility of a shortened spring season if virus conditions improve — or there is a vaccine or working therapy — by February or March. Farrin said she has also talked to her coach about possibly using her final year of eligibility next year — if that season takes place as scheduled — as a graduate student, if she goes that route at the school.
"Even though we are not playing other teams now competing against ourselves is preparing us for when we can play a real game,” she said with a sense of optimism. "I am hoping for (a spring season). It would be nice even if it's only half a season."
Caponigro, who played one year at Endicott after transferring from Southern New Hampshire University, is holding out similar hope.
"I love the team and love the coaches," she said. "They made me feel like I was home when I came here. This is definitely not how I saw my soccer career ending.
"But I am trying to take advantage of these last two scrimmages coming up in the fall because this could be it for me."
(Scott Souza is a Patch Field Editor covering Beverly, Danvers, Marblehead, Peabody, Salem and Swampscott. He can be reached at Scott.Souza@Patch.com. Twitter: @Scott_Souza.)