Athletes hope to maintain morale and continue training after college cancels fall sports

The cancellation of all fall competitive sporting events at the college left many student athletes—especially seniors—devastated about the loss of a season otherwise filled with practices, road trips with teammates, and nail-biting matches. 

The decision came Tuesday to cancel the fall 2020 athletic season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which impacted men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s cross country and women’s volleyball. 

Despite the emotions involved with the decision, senior cross country athlete Madison Lynch said she understands why the college prioritized the safety of its student athletes.

“It was definitely really disappointing,” Lynch said in a phone interview with The Beacon. “As a senior, that was my last season, and it was something I had been looking forward to, just finishing out my college career strong. I do totally understand from a safety perspective that it was the call that needed to be made, but it is still really disappointing.”

Due to the cancellation, senior athletes lost their last chance to compete in a Lions uniform. Senior men’s soccer forward and midfielder John Manocchia said learning the college’s decision was tough for him to process. 

“It’s hard to swallow for the whole team and the coaching staff,” Manocchia said in a phone interview with The Beacon. “This would have been our senior year. To have it not happen is hard, it’s difficult for sure.”

Sophomore setter Caroline Bond said she hopes the women’s volleyball team can stay committed to each other through the school year, despite the cancellation. 

“I don’t want to act like our seniors are already gone,” Bond said in a phone interview with The Beacon. “We still have a team, and we all have to chip in and do our part in keeping the team alive. If we are as dedicated to the team as we were this last year then I don’t think team chemistry or morale will be impacted long term.”

The women’s volleyball team produced its most successful season in fall 2019 since joining the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference in 2013, reaching the conference championship before falling 3-0 to Babson College. Bond said the team was looking to add to its success prior to the college’s announcement.

“It’s really upsetting because we had a really awesome season this past year,” Bond said. “We were really energized as a team coming into this next season, we were really excited about it. Obviously I understand that things happen, I trust that our school thought about every avenue to give us a season and I trust that it just wasn’t possible.”

The women’s soccer team saw similar success last season, reaching the NEWMAC playoffs for the second season in a row. The team now has to postpone their goal of competing in the NEWMAC championship.

“We had such a great season last year, and as a team, we thought this would be our year to maybe even win the NEWMAC Championship,” junior forward Grace Cosgrove said in a phone interview with The Beacon. “We had a really good incoming [freshmen] class as well. We were so set as a team that this was going to be our year.”

Prior to the cancellation, the college considered a few options for the fall 2020 season, including a condensed season or a season with other NEWMAC colleges. Mannochia said these speculations created false hope for athletes before the college announced its decision.

“It’s really hard to put it into words when things happen so fast,” Manocchia said. “One minute you hear they’re going to try to get a season in with all NEWMAC teams, and then a week to two weeks later, you see [other colleges] cancel before us. You kinda think to yourself ‘uh oh, this might actually happen.’”

Cosgrove said the Athletic Department is looking into allowing teams to hold practices with safety precautions in place, including requiring masks, social distancing, and practicing in smaller groups.

Bond said the department has not confirmed that these practices will take place. 

“I don’t think they want to feed us false hope,” Bond said. “We thought we were going to have a season as of a couple of weeks ago. We were told we were going to have a condensed season. Things are changing so rapidly, so I think they’re a little hesitant to make any promises because they know that things can change in an instant.”

Even though holding practices will not make up for the lost season, senior women’s soccer defender Alana Hagerty said she hopes she will receive the opportunity to play the sport she loves with her teammates.

“For [Division III], you play because you have a love for the sport,” Hagarty said in a phone interview with The Beacon. “If everyone is able to get together and play, everyone would be happy that we’re at least able to get on the field a little bit. We’ll take what we can get.”

Manocchia said he believes the canceled season will only push his teammates to stay motivated to prepare for the 2021 season.

“I’ve never seen a more committed group in my time on the team,” Manocchia said. “These kids want it, they really do. This is just a bump in the road. We’re only going to get stronger through this. I think it’s going to fuel the team to come back feistier than ever. They’re going to want to play so bad when they get that message that says ‘alright guys, it’s safe to play.’”