High school sports has returned to action after being sidelined by the pandemic since March. The boys hockey team hosted Sandwich at home in a hard fought game Thursday that ended with the Blue Knights leaving the Island victorious by a 3-0 margin.

While other Massachusetts high schools participated in a modified fall sports season, the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School committee voted not to participate due to a lack of testing for students on the Vineyard. Now, with regular testing fully implemented in Island schools, the Vineyarders are back on the Ice, the hardwood and in the pool competing against the other Cape and Islands league schools in a modified winter sports season.

The swim team is conducting its meets in virtual heats, with opposing teams swimming in their home pools and then comparing times. The Vineyard swimmers opened their season on Jan. 7, with the boys and girls teams defeating Bishop Connolly.

The winter season continues through Feb. 21, at which time the Fall II season begins, which includes football and possibly indoor track.

“The plan is that football is still going to be a go, said MVRHS athletic director Mark McCarthy. “The fact that it’s outside will help.”

Indoor track, however, is still questionable. The Vineyard usually holds their home meets at Wheaton College but that facility is not available during the Fall II time period.

“Being the fact that it’s late February and March, maybe we’ll do a modified outdoor or do the indoor events outside,” Mr. McCarthy said. “We haven’t figured that out yet, we have to wait to see what happens with the MIAA.”

At the hockey game on Thursday, the crowd was sparse but that had nothing to do with lack of enthusiasm. Home games for all sports are not open to the public, however each athlete is allowed two guests for hockey and basketball games. No spectators are allowed at swim meets.

In addition to the lack of cheering fans, athletes must adjust to MIAA-instituted modifications. In every sport except swimming, athletes must wear masks when competing. They also have to keep their distance from teammates and opposing players when on the bench, in the penalty box or shooting free throws. Post-game handshake lines have also been eliminated.

“You’re trying to influence more distance between the kids whenever possible,” said MVRHS athletic director Mark McCarthy.

At Thursday’s game, the Vineyarders fell behind early but stepped up their intensity and had multiple opportunities to score as the game continued. Down 1-0 with time running out, Vineyard head coach Matt Mincone pulled his goalie with 1:25 left in the final period but to no avail.

Coach Mincone said the most important thing about the game was the fact that there was a game at all.

“They got to go out and compete. Good for Sandwich, good for our guys, good for the community for getting us to this point,” Coach Mincone said. “I told them they’ll never forget this game, not because it’s their freshman year or senior year first game but because it’s the pandemic game.”

Next week, boys hockey will be in Hyannis Monday afternoon for a bout with St. John Paul II High School. On Thursday, girls hockey travels to Barnstable to take on the Red Raiders. Also Thursday afternoon, the boys and girls basketball teams face off against Sandwich. The girls travel to the Cape to take on the Blue Knights and the boys compete in their home opener at 4:30 p.m.

Competition is live streamed on the MVRHS athletics website: mvrhs.org/vineyarders/ .