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Coronavirus concerns disrupt Dundalk and Essex sports, national athletics

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The CCBC Essex women's basketball program has waited since 1978 for a return trip to the NJCAA championship tournament.

Now, due to the coronavirus, the Knights must wait another year for an opportunity.  But it won't be the same team that was expecting to be contending for a national title this season.

The NJCAA announced on Monday that the national Division I and Division II  women's and men's tournaments will be canceled this season.

The women's tournament was due to begin on March 17. Essex (30-2) was seeded ninth in the tournament and was to play eighth-seeded Sullivan (N.Y.) County(29-2) in the first round.

The Knights are ranked 12th in the NJCAA poll, while the Generals are ranked 15th.

The NJCAA originally announced on Thursday it was postponing the championship tournaments, with the women's tournament tentatively pushed back to April 20.

"We understand that the NJCAA has the health and safety of its student-athletes, member institutions and fans at the forefront of any decision regarding COVID-19," CCBC Essex athletic director Greg Witkop said after the postponement announcement. "We hope that as April 20 approaches, the health situation has improved and our student-athletes can continue to compete."

The tournament's cancellation was a rough blow for an Essex women's program that was revived this season after being dormant for 15 years. The Knights, who defeated three of last season's Final Four participants during the regular season, were primed to make a run to the national championship.

"We had a chance at a national championship," Essex coach Mike Seney tweeted. "Not sure when I'll get over this. I guess we will never know the outcome. But this team was special."

Safety precautions in reaction to the coronavirus, which was named a pandemic last week by the World Health Organization (WHO), have also disrupted the spring season for CCBC Essex and CCBC Dundalk.

Also on Monday, the NJCAA announced all spring sports have been canceled.

The CCBC Essex women's lacrosse team was ranked fifth in the nation after a 2-0 start. The season is also over for the CCBC Essex men's lacrosse team, as well as the Essex and CCBC Dundalk baseball teams.

Also on Thursday, Gov. Larry Hogan closed all state public schools for two weeks.

The spring sports season was scheduled to begin on March 20. No practices can be held, nor games played, while schools are closed. The earliest schools may re-open is March 30.

The Maryland State girls and boys basketball tournaments, which were scheduled for Thursday through Friday, have also been postponed "until further notice.

Both tournaments are in the state semifinal round. Anyone who has purchased tickets in advance will be refunded.

Parkville was to play Springbrook in the Class 4A Boys state semifinal, with the winner to face either Richard Montgomery or Wise.

For the spring sports, the MPSSAA announced all athletic contests scheduled through April 6 have been canceled. 

If schools do re-open, they are encouraged to reconsider any games against out-of-state opponents and any events that include more than 250 individuals.

Baltimore County Recreation and Parks have also suspended athletic activities until further notice.

Nationally, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League have suspended their seasons, while the start of the Major League Baseball season has been postponed for at least two weeks.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has cancelled all remaining winter and spring sports championships. That includes the men's and women's NCAA Division I basketball tournaments.

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