Courtesy @goquakers on Instagram
The night of March 12, Guilford’s men’s lacrosse team met outside of Armfield Athletic Center for a team dinner. This dinner was only hours after the team learned of the suspension of the young 2020 season.
Only team members and coaches were privy to the discussion and events of that evening, but a team known for being lighthearted and joking with each other on and off the field came together in an unthinkable time. As the team embraced on the 50-yard line of Appenzeller Field, they didn’t know when they would be together again. The one thing they knew in that moment, and still do, is the bond of brotherhood that their sport brought them.
“I found out the day after our now-known final game,” said senior men’s lacrosse player Connor Sweeney. “We had been hearing things throughout the day and that night our coach told us it was basically over.
“I was numb to the situation,” Sweeney said. “With hearing certain things and following trends, I figured it was coming and it was not a surprise to me. I still do not think it has fully hit me yet.”
Baseball player Ryan Hill is another of the many seniors at Guilford College whose seasons were taken away too soon. “We were on the way to an away game when coach told us it was probably going to be our last game and we were going to play it like Senior Day.”
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA has granted an extra season of eligibility for athletes affected by the cancellation of spring 2020 sports. Several of Guilford’s seniors will be coming back to play their extra year of eligibility, and Hill is one of them.
“I miss all my teammates and coaches more than anything, but I am thankful and look forward to using the extra year to continue to play the game I love,” said Hill.
Senior golf player James Mishoe also will be taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility at Guilford.
“It has been really hard because you (normally) get to know when it would be our last game and moment stepping onto the field, but we did not get that opportunity. The only thing good coming from COVID-19 is the extra year of eligibility I will use to come back and play,” he said.
“I have definitely thought about it,” said Sweeney. “I would love to return if it financially makes sense. I have spent so much time around this sport and not having a senior season is something I may always regret.”
Many seniors will not be returning, including senior softball players Natalie Conrad and Kayli Scott. Both were interviewed by WFMY News 2 about their situations and how hard it has been to move on from the sport they love.
“I think the hardest part is not having closure and never knowing when the last time I would step on the field would be. I felt like we were just starting and then it was all taken away,” said Scott.
Although her season ended too soon, Scott was able to get married to her now-husband Garrett Scott. Natalie Conrad is also planning a wedding with her fiancé Nick Warden and studying for an exam to get into nursing school.
“I no longer spend roughly 45 hours a week playing softball,” said Conrad. “Instead I am home trying to keep myself busy.”
Suddenly, all of the work and dedication players like Conrad devoted to preparing for upcoming games unexpectedly came to a halt.
“We had a game on Wednesday and our season was over on Thursday, and we spent all week preparing for our game against Roanoke that Saturday,” said senior lacrosse player Connor Leamey.
This was an ending none of the athletes wanted and not the way Guilford’s seniors wanted to go out. Closure is something many of them wanted, but will not be able to have.
No one quite knows what spring sports will look like in 2021.Will fall sports happen? Will programs at small schools be cut? When will schools open back up?
In the time of a global pandemic, sports may seem trivial, but they are a way of life for college student-athletes. Some students have chosen Guilford simply because they play a sport. The uncertainty prevails as incidents happen, such as the University of Cincinnati electing to discontinue its men’s soccer program.
At Guilford, almost all athletics staff have been furloughed until further notice. And for now, there are more questions than answers on how athletics will look when schools potentially open in the fall.