The NCAA announced that it suspended all upcoming tournaments for both spring season and winter season sports on March 11. A day later, the NCAA applied this rule to Division II and Division III sports.
As a senior playing for my university’s tennis team, this news was shocking. In one minute, my senior year was over in the middle of our season.
With two other seniors on my team, we didn’t really know how to react. I transferred last semester, and I hadn’t had the best year so far. After finding out I had visa issues, I had to move back to the Netherlands within four days. I stayed home for the rest of the fall semester, which meant I missed playing our off-season matches. I also had to withdraw from all my classes, and I was automatically a semester behind schedule.
When I came back in the spring, it took awhile for me to start my season. Since I didn’t take any classes in the fall, I was ineligible to play tennis in the spring season. I had to apply for a waiver from the NCAA if I wanted to play.
Finally, after waiting for a month and a half, I was approved to play the first match of my senior year. Even though I missed a lot of matches already, I was able to put it aside and still enjoy my senior season.
I felt like I deserved to be there, and I appreciated every match I played. When the season was canceled after only playing five matches, I couldn’t figure out if I was sad or angry. However, I knew I wasn’t the only person that was feeling this pain and sorrow for lack of closure.
Anna Sovic plays tennis at Mercer University, and she’s been feeling the same way. She’s a senior graduating in May. She says she misses closure most.
“I wish I was able to finish like the seniors before me did,” Sovic said.
She was excited to finish her final season strong, to graduate and start a new journey.
Former student-athlete Lindsay Harlas, who played for New Mexico State University, couldn’t believe this was happening to the class of 2020 athletes. She reached out to all the people she knew were seniors and posted a picture on Instagram.
For the caption, Harlas explained she can’t imagine how all seniors are feeling. She’ll have a “normal” senior season and mentioned it was a day to never forget.
“Senior day is the day where you look back at your career, where you get emotional playing your last home match. It is a way to have closure for the sport,” Harlas said. “We have made sacrifices and invested in our sport our whole life. Everyone deserves a full senior year.”
My last tennis match was on Wednesday, March 11, and we beat Daemen College 7-0. It was a good win for our team’s confidence. We were preparing for our trip to San Antonio, Texas. We were looking forward to that tournament, and we would’ve played matches from Friday until Sunday.
On Thursday morning, the Palm Beach Post reported that someone who tested positive for the coronavirus was at PBI airport a few days prior, so many of us were concerned to travel to San Antonio. After many conversations with the coach, we decided not to go to Texas, even though we were supposed to leave that same afternoon.
As weird as it sounds right now, we didn’t expect the whole season to be canceled a day later. We ended our tennis season with an overall record of 7-4. There were at least 13 more matches scheduled for our season.
I remember thinking, “The NCAA must do something to fix this.” My thoughts went to all the Division I basketball and baseball players who would possibly get drafted professionally. I couldn’t help but think about how much their careers and their lives depended on this one season.
When looking at Instagram, several story posts showed #redshirtcoronayear, a hashtag posted by other student athletes. It’s a way to support each other as student athletes and to attract the attention of the NCAA to give another year of eligibility to the players who lost a year or a portion of their season.
The account that came up with this hashtag now has 37.8 thousand followers. A couple of days after the hashtag appeared, the NCAA announced it will grant another year of eligibility for the student athletes that are affected by the cancellation.
However, for Yulia Russu, this won’t work. She’s graduating in May, and she’ll leave the U.S. after graduating. Like many other seniors, she already made post-graduation plans, which are not the easiest to change.
Even though this is a great opportunity for athletes to redo their final collegiate season, it doesn’t take the moment back. That special moment that teams worked tirelessly for months to achieve. The people who finally got recovered from their injuries who were ready to play and now have to wait even longer than they already did. Seniors that were working so hard to finish strong are now graduating. Freshmen who just started their collegiate career can’t finish their first year. Transfers who were excited to show their abilities to their new teams now must wait for another opportunity.
The virus has had a huge impact on the world, and right now it feels like it’s stopped the world from moving. But we can’t blame the NCAA. We can only blame the virus.
By Rebecca Keijzerwaard