Samantha LeBeau Contributing Writer
The UMF Softball season took a hard hit as the university ordered spring sport cancellations in an attempt to restrict the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The women’s softball team was excited to travel to Florida over spring break to kick off their season.
The annual trip to Florida is typically an exciting and challenging week for the softball team, as they play a third of their season (consisting of ten countable season games) within the course of their visit. Head Coach Katherine McKay said in an email interview, “If the season wasn’t cancelled we would be ten games into our season, having competed in all of the games in Florida.”
However, this year the trip was cancelled along with the entirety of spring sports, in an attempt to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. University athletes and fans were left disappointed as they heard the verdict of this decision. While many are not affected by this decision, the senior athletes especially, were left devastated, confused and heartbroken.
McKay would have been coaching her third season this year at UMF. “To say the least, it’s been a difficult transition and a hard reality to accept,” she said.“I know how much it broke my heart to look my three seniors in the eye and tell them they had no senior season.”
Coach McKay was just as disappointed as the players to hear the news regarding the season. “This was a complete surprise. We knew things were getting bad, but it was like a wave hit, starting in the South and continuing up the coast,” she said. “I don’t think anyone believed it would get to this point, but it did, and as devastating as it is, the important thing is the health and wellbeing of the student-athletes and their families.”
Despite this season’s cancellation, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is trying to figure out a way for seniors to have an option for a last season. “The NCAA is figuring out next season what this means for this year’s current seniors and how to give them the option for another season,” McKay said. “The plan is to start next year as if this spring didn’t happen. We will have fall ball as normal and hopefully a healthy 2021 season.”
Prior to the intended Florida trip, the women’s team devoted much of their time to training. Spending up to six days a week practicing in the UMF gym, along with two to three days a week working on strength and conditioning drills. The team planned the trip to Florida from March 14 to 24 for the first portion of their season.
Senior Captain Karen Flaherty was shocked by the news she received. “I was completely surprised that the whole season was cancelled. I knew that our spring training trip in Florida would be cancelled, but to also find out that our entire season was cancelled and to not get one last chance to play softball took me by surprise,” she said. “I was not at all expecting for the whole season to be cancelled.”
Flaherty, who would have been playing her third season at UMF said, “I do not plan on attending UMF for another year to play a final season. I had already taken an extra semester of schooling to finish my senior season this spring, but unfortunately the season got cancelled.” Flaherty was deeply saddened by the news of the season saying, “The cancellation of the season made me feel heartbroken. My heart felt like it just sunk into my chest. It still doesn’t seem real.”
Despite these trying and difficult times due to COVID-19, Flaherty leaves a bit of senior advice to underclassmen athletes, “As a captain, advice that I would give to underclassmen is to play each game like it’s your last because you never know when that game may be your last.”