Thomas College forward Ellie Hoving, of Bristol, dribbles the ball during a game last fall. Submitted photo/Thomas College athletics

WATERVILLE — Thomas College announced Tuesday morning it reached an agreement to play some fall sports with the University of Maine at Presque Isle during the coronavirus pandemic.

Thomas and UMPI will compete in soccer, cross country and golf, with events beginning Saturday and concluding Oct. 18. UMPI does not have field hockey or women’s tennis teams.

“We are very excited to be able to offer this opportunity to our student-athletes,” Thomas College athletic director Chris Parsons said in a statement. “Of course, the safety and well-being of student-athletes, coaches and athletics staff members will continue to be the top priority while conducting these contests. UMPI is the right partner for us to compete against because of their size, location and testing standards that are similar to ours.”

UMPI and Thomas compete in the North Atlantic Conference, along with Maine Maritime, Husson and UMaine-Farmington.

“I don’t know how many words I can pick for ecstatic,” Thomas women’s soccer coach Deb Biche-Labbe said. “I’m ecstatic for my student athletes that have taken great sacrifices and gone through all the protocols that we were looking for, and really proud of them as well, because we were asking a lot of them to get to this point, without knowing for sure that it would happen. It still could be taken away. Any day now, something could come back, and it’s taken away.

“I’m also really, really grateful to Thomas College, our president and our athletic director and their leadership during this time and making this possible for us, trying to see the solution of how can we get this reward for playing, which is what everyone wants to do.”

The NAC canceled all conference competition this summer, but left open the possibility for members to schedule nonconference games.

Biche-Labbe — who also gave credit to the Thomas College student body for following protocols since the start of school — said the Terriers just started to have drills against one another in practice Tuesday. They’ve spent the early portion of the season working on conditioning and individual drills.

“We’re entering what we’re calling ‘Phase 3’ of the NCAA resocialization to sport process,” Biche-Labbe said. “We’re in our fifth week right now. As of today, this is our first day that we are actually going to be able to compete against one another, which we’re also really excited about. We’ve taken a lot of precautions — and will continue to take a lot of precautions — up into this point. One of the great things about what has happened, it’s given us a great opportunity to refocus on the strength training that we almost never have time for. Usually, we have a week (of training) and then we have a game going on. But we’ve really been able to focus on that a lot more, and the athleticism of the team, you can just see it. They have a ton of buy-in for that, which has been awesome.”

UMPI will host Thomas in golf and cross country on Saturday. The soccer teams will play games Oct. 10. and Oct. 17.

Thomas announced that participants will be tested for COVID-19 prior to each contest and masks will be required during competition. Furthermore, spectators will be limited. School officials also said they hope to find opportunities for the field hockey and women’s tennis teams to compete this fall.

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