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A SEASON TAKEN AWAY FOR COLLEGE SENIORS

Now They Must Decide – Start Work Career, Or One More Year Of Sports?

By Sean McGee
Special to HVSR

Just like that, it was all over.

Just like that, all the hard work in the offseason was for nothing.

Just like that, the dreams of college athletes were taken away.

The rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus put an automatic stop to NCAA winter sports and, with the subsequent cancellation of the spring season entirely, athletes were left to process what has become reality. The virus took away what student-athletes work so tirelessly for until the NCAA decided on Tuesday to grant an extra year of eligibility to spring sports participants. Now seniors must decide a career choice suddenly thrust upon them – come back for one more year on the playing fields, a year that for nearly all would be the last time playing competitively, or jump into the real world of their chosen work field?

A difficult choice, indeed, especially when so many student-athletes are still dealing with the initial news that spring sports are over before they began.

Once athletes were told the devastating news, it was near impossible for them to control their emotions. Andrea Bombace, a graduating senior on the Marist College softball team and former three-year all-section Ketcham High School standout, recalled the moment she heard the dreaded announcement with her team.

“Initially it was silent, and you could only hear people crying. It was silent for about 20 to 25 minutes and all you heard were tears,” she said. “Finally, a couple of people speak and the words coming out of their mouths were like we had just played our last game, like our senior game, like our season was done.

This was it for the senior, who just came back from an ACL injury. This was going to be the last season to do what she loved, one last time until COVID-19 had other plans.

“’This is it; you’re not going to play anymore,’” Bombace said to herself. “Regardless of the NCAA giving you a year back, I already have a job lined-up and everything like that, so it’s one of those things like ‘Wow, you just took your last at-bat.’ That’s how I am trying to process it in my head.”

 

Bombace isn’t the only Marist College senior who has already taken a job after graduation. Chris Schlappich, a senior on the men’s lacrosse team and two-time Section 9, Class B champion with Highland, will also forgo the extra year of eligibility, ending a prominent career.

“I really couldn’t believe that it was over,” Schlappich said over email. “I was aware of what was going on in the world and what other conferences were deciding to do, but I struggled to wrap my head around the fact that our season was really over. It didn’t seem real.”

For most athletes, the day before the cancellation of spring sports was normal, practice went as scheduled. Little did they know the next day would bring an immediate end to not only practice, but the entire season.

“I really wasn’t able to fully comprehend that our season was actually over in that moment,” said Schlappich. “I was in total disbelief that it could be cut short so abruptly. I entirely understand why the decisions were made but it was hard to really come to grips with the fact that we wouldn’t be heading out to practice that day.”

There would be no getting the last few games in or postponing it until conference play, it simply was over with.

“Having it end so abruptly and hearing it from our coach like there is nothing anybody could do about it was the hardest part,” said Jessica Lasaponara, a senior on the Marist women’s lacrosse team who played high school lax for the combined Wappingers team. “There was a lot of tears and confusion, but the worst part of it was that it was kind of just thrown at us when we weren’t really ready for it.”

Lasaponara was Wappingers’ all-time leading goal scorer in high school with 105 goals and was ready to hold her stick one last season for the Red Foxes. Now she is left to ponder the decision of coming back to finish her career, the way she would have wanted to.

“It’s awesome that they [NCAA] gave us the opportunity to come back and to finish our careers the right way, but it’s all just a matter of decisions and figuring out what the next step is, so I’m not 100 percent sure if I want to do it,” Lasaponara said.

“It’s kind of those feelings that your stomach just hits the floor,” said Bombace. “You kind of just lost everything that you just worked so hard to get to and it was taken away from you and you didn’t even know it.”

     

 

 

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