College Athletes Reflect On Promising Seasons Cut Short
The cancellation of college and professional sports across the state has impacted fans, stadium employees, nearby businesses, and others, but it might be most devastating for college athletes, some of whom will never get the chance to compete again.
Here are the stories of 5 student-athletes and the unexpected end to their senior seasons.
The UNC-Chapel Hill women's lacrosse team was undefeated and ranked number one in the country this year. In senior Katie Hoeg's last game of this season, she became the team's all-time leading scorer.
"It was a really great game. It was a nail biter until the very end," Hoeg said. "I kind of had a feeling after that game that you know, that could have been our last one."
And it was.
"It's just so hard to grasp the fact that our season was actually over," Hoeg said. "I just kept remaining hopeful that you know, I wasn't done playing lacrosse, that this wasn't the last time I would touch my stick."
Her conference extended eligibility to seniors like Katie, so she and some of her teammates are planning to return next year for a final season. That gives her a new perspective.
"I was saying to my teammates, it feels like it's a dress rehearsal almost," Hoeg said.
For Katie and younger players, this brief season may have been a dress rehearsal, but for others it will be the final curtain.
Mia Pope is a senior on the North Carolina A&T women’s bowling team. Her squad was coming off a successful tournament, and ready for more.
"Now we’re going into post-season and we're looking pretty good... and then Corona happened," Pope said.
"It’s our safety over winning a championship, but I mean, I was devastated," Pope said.
Pope is heading to graduate school, but she doesn’t have eligibility to keep bowling in college, so she might consider entering pro tours where you pay to play and compete for prize money.
"Honestly, I was going to quit after this, but since it was taken away it's like now I can't quit," Pope said. "Because it wasn't on my terms."
But she's still making up her mind.
The North Carolina Central men's basketball team had won its regular season title against rival North Carolina A&T. They were hoping to win the MEAC Conference tournament title, and earn a bid to the NCAA tournament, when senior Jibri Blount’s coach pulled him aside from the huddle after their final game.
"He was, I would say, probably a little bit even more hurt at the time than I was," Blount said.
Coach LeVelle Moton told Blount he had everything to be proud of, and nothing to be ashamed of, then he gave him a hug. He told Blount that he hated that the season might end this way.
"One thing I can say is that I didn't really have any regrets," Blount said. "It didn't end the way that I wanted to, but it wasn't because of a loss and it wasn't because we didn't play hard or something like that, but it was for the betterment of everybody."
Now Blount will go it alone. He's hired an agent and will try to fulfill his dream of playing in the N.B.A.
For teammates Matt Frye and Brett Centracchio, their final game together on the Davidson College baseball team was one to remember. They upset a ranked Duke team with a dramatic walk-off homerun by Brett.
"That was the best moment of my baseball career," Centracchio said, looking back on the footage.
"It was also the best moment of my baseball life," said teammate Frye. "I didn't even hit it."
Here it is: Brett Centracchio's 2-run walk-off HR to beat No. 10 Duke 7-6 Tuesday night— Davidson Baseball (@DavidsonBASE) March 11, 2020
As senior athletes hang up their college jerseys and put on graduation gowns, they’re packing away those memories for the future.
"I definitely watched it a lot the next couple days, and reliving it, now it's kind of bittersweet," Centracchio said. "I realized that, you know, that was my last swing in a Davidson uniform."
"We'd have been really good," Frye said. "But if it was going to end, I'm glad that's how it ended."
Centracchio and Frye both have eligibility to play another year, but it won't be at Davidson College. The school doesn't have any graduate programs, so the graduating seniors will move on. Centracchio will head to UNC-Chapel Hill to play out his final year and Frye is seeking other options.
Now they and spring semester athletes everywhere will have to find their own closure to this unexpected year.