On a Friday afternoon, March 13, Athletic Director Michelle Walsh informed all spring athletes that they wouldn’t have a season. Vassar student-athletes had been waiting with bated breath as other institutions shut down their remaining practices, competitions and championships. The Ivy Leagues were the first to make the call, then Tuesday night, March 10, NESCAC schools followed suit. By Thursday night, the news seemed inevitable.
In a statement to all Vassar student-athletes, Walsh wrote, “[T]he college has decided to suspend all varsity and varsity club practices and competitions until further notice, with the exception of teams completing their spring break trips.” Vassar had joined the rest of the NCAA in canceling the remainder of all spring seasons.
The sudden cancellation disheartened coaches and athletes alike, many of whom were just beginning their season or on the precipice of unprecedented playoff runs. The men’s volleyball team, for instance, was top ranked and primed for a postseason run, but the fallout flattened those hopes. Whether a team expected to be a powerhouse or was vying for some underdog victories, the loss of a season was frustrating and disappointing for all spring athletes.
But for senior Brewers in particular, these cancellations spell the end of Vassar athletics careers. We invited senior student-athletes to reflect on this bizarre end, and the lessons learned throughout their time as Vassar athletes.
As a senior athlete, I knew my athletic career was coming to a close. I knew I would have to confront how it felt to be finished with something that was a part of my life for almost as long as I can remember, and that this would be a challenge. However, prior to the intervention of COVID-19, the ending still seemed fairly distant, and thinking of it as such helped me focus on the present. This meant that I was able to enjoy time with my teammates and the success we had on the field. It also meant that I was not wholly prepared when our season was cut off abruptly by the current pandemic. Lacrosse does not define my identity, and yet it was a big part of my life. I felt a little unmoored by the suddenness with which the ending came, especially as it came in conjunction with separation from teammates and the school environment. Our team was brimming with talent and energy; it hurt that we didn’t get the chance to develop further, as we all knew that we had the potential to continue to perform at a high level. As seniors, one day we were college athletes and the next day we were not. This transition was jarring.
With all this being said, I will forever be grateful for our team’s mindset about what it means to be a team. Vassar women’s lacrosse is a family; we are connected beyond what we are capable of on the field. Knowing that my relationships with my teammates and this program will carry on despite this season’s unprecedented ending makes a shortened career easier to bear.Grace Goodwin-Boyd, Women’s Lacrosse
As a senior, having such an abrupt ending to my lacrosse career was not something I had prepared myself for. I always knew it would be hard, but missing out on the opportunity to show what we had worked so hard for and finish out the season with such a talented team has been unbelievably difficult to process. However, through all of this, I could not help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude that I had the opportunity to play on the women’s lacrosse team and be part of the athletics community at Vassar. Old teammates, coaches and friends from other teams reaching out helped the situation feel much less isolating, and reaffirmed the strong sense of community that I have always felt being a student-athlete at Vassar. While I wish more than anything we could finish what we started this season, I will be forever thankful for this team, and especially my five fellow seniors, who have truly become family.Kelly Pushie, Women’s Lacrosse
It happened all at once. The first Monday of break, I felt certain that in five short days I’d be headed to Arizona with my teammates for our season’s first meet. Come Thursday, the NCAA had canceled our season and Vassar had postponed my return to campus to mid-April. In a matter of days, my final season was over. But though the season was canceled quickly, my disappointment, frustration, and sense of loss have come more slowly. My head has become a revolving door for these emotions. Every so often, a thought pushes through on a gust, carrying a twinge of sadness. I’ll never compete in a Vassar singlet again. I won’t have a chance to savor my last race. I won’t get to experience the repetitive, arduous and wonderful everyday of running on a team of my best friends. I won’t get to say goodbye to these friends and my coaches during senior week. The lack of closure kills me.
But in moments of frustration, instead of dwelling on what’s been taken, I’m reminding myself of what Vassar cross country and track and field have given me. They’ve given me friendships that’ll last a lifetime. They’ve allowed me to compete in sports I love, pushing me towards my competitive limits. They’ve taught me to follow and challenged me to lead. And even today, despite the circumstances, Vassar XCTF continues to give. My coaches still provide me with advice and training plans; our team is holding onto our sense of community through Zoom and Google Hangouts. Of course, none of this is to say that I’ve come to terms with my career’s abrupt end. But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned through collegiate athletics, it’s this: [Y]ou can’t control things on the outside like injuries, weather and global pandemics. What you can control is how you respond. I choose resiliency. Fall down seven times, stand up eight.Eli Bashant, Track and Field
Obviously, this isn’t how any of us spring athletes imagined our seasons ending. You always know, particularly as a senior, that your athletic career is going to end at some point, but never in a million years do you ever imagine it will be ripped away from you and ending as abruptly as it did to us. However, I think this abrupt ending has made me appreciate everything playing a sport at Vassar has given me. I’ve met my lifelong best friends, made amazing memories and got to play a sport I love at a collegiate level, which isn’t something every athlete gets to do, all at a school I love. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. That doesn’t mean this ending isn’t hard to process, and I’m sure it will always be bittersweet, but I am truly thankful I had the opportunity and privilege to play a sport in college. This ending will never overshadow all the good and amazing things that came out of being an athlete at Vassar!Sydney Nemphos, Women’s Lacrosse
Hearing the news that Vassar would be closed and track canceled for the spring made my heart sink. Here, I found myself in this wonderful community, working hard with my best friends to try and achieve something great. I set a lot of goals going into freshman year about what I wanted to achieve throughout my time with Vassar XCTF. While I didn’t quite get to put all the pieces together on the Vassar track for the final season, I feel as though I have accomplished more than I had ever hoped for throughout my four years at Vassar College.
I am disappointed that I will not be racing for Vassar anymore. But, for me, running became a vehicle for so many more important things in my life than any time on a stopwatch or miles on a GPS could show. Without the team that quickly became my family, I would not be the person that I am today.
Running for Vassar has given me the greatest community I could have hoped for. I feel so lucky to be inspired by the individuals on this team every day. I have found the hardest workers; the most selfless and caring hearts; the best, fun-loving goofballs in this family. I loved every moment that we laughed, cried, sang, cheered, and, of course, ran together. I am so thankful for each person who has touched my heart over the past four years.
Perhaps my main goal transitioning into college was that I wanted to be proud of the person I would become by the time I left as a senior. I wanted to make memories with friends that would last a lifetime, to forge real connections and trust between myself, my coaches, and my teammates, and to feel happy with myself as I transitioned into adulthood. The skills and experiences I gained from my time on this wonderful, ridiculous, silly, genuine, supportive, ambitious team will continue to color my interactions with the world around me. I never expected to have to move on from Vassar XCTF so soon, but I now understand that moving on doesn’t mean leaving it all behind. While I may not live on Vassar’s beautiful campus, go to class in the most magnificent buildings or help score in Vassar races again, I feel so lucky to have this family hold a piece of my heart. So, I look forward to the adventures, the miles, the runs where I can’t take another step,and those where I feel what it must be like to fly—and I look forward to bringing Vassar XCTF along as I navigate the unknown.Meghan Cook, Track & Field
As a captain and teammate, it’s incredibly disappointing to have the season canceled. Each and every member of the team put in an incredible amount of time and work over the last seven months, and it’s a shame that none of it will be realized in the postseason. That being said, I think that it’s important to reflect on one of our team mantras: “The most important day of the season is today”. For me, this meant to always give 100 percent, to always focus on the present moment, and most importantly, to always play as if each game was my last. Never did I think, however, that this philosophy would so unexpectedly become a reality.
As a senior, this was obviously my last season of collegiate volleyball. And to have this, which has been a greater part of my life for the last four years, end so suddenly is unbelievably anticlimactic. We were battling for a national championship, and I’m most disappointed about not (and never again) being able to compete for this with some of my closest friends.
It’s true, now more than ever, that you never know what you have until it’s gone. In the coming years, I hope that the underclassmen take this to heart, so that they can make the most of every interaction, lift, practice, and game. Because you never know when it might come to an end.-Kevin Ros, Men’s Volleyball
The night we found out that classes would be moved online for the rest of the year, and that therefore more than likely our season was over, it felt like we had had the rug pulled from under our feet. I lay in my hotel bed for two hours, unsure of what to do, say or think. Others grouped up and talked, cried, consoled, laughed and poured out all the emotions they had onto each other, everyone unsure about what to feel. First years cried for seniors, and seniors cried for each other. I lay in my bed because I knew the sight of a single other face would bring with it an onslaught of tears I was powerless to withhold. I feel guilty in a way, that I didn’t join [in] with my teammates, my brothers, in consoling one another. That I was too scared to face the depths of the emotions I knew I had. But I suppose we all face emotions in our own way.
It was definitely not how we envisioned our season panning out. Last year was a difficult year for us from the very beginning, when our senior captain Jake Doyle tore his ACL on the first play of the season, and we dealt with bad luck and injuries for the rest of the year.
This year felt different, and we vowed to make it different. We were a senior-led team, and in talent, dedication and mental toughness I think this was the best team Vassar Baseball has ever had. It was the season we had all been waiting for since we arrived on campus four years ago and had an immediate impact on team success.
Every single hitter in the senior class held a starting role this year, and every single pitcher was either a starter or high leverage reliever. I have no doubt this is the best chance Vassar Baseball has ever had at winning the Liberty League.
This team was also as close-knit a group as I have ever been a part of. It felt like a family, where every day you went to practice and got to play with 34 of your best friends. So when we cried, we cried because we would not get to play baseball anymore. But also because we would not get to see our best friends anymore. And for the seniors, we will not get to see them all together except one day once a year, ever again.
Our last game as seniors felt like the championship we knew we would now never get. Every at bat felt like the bottom of the ninth, and every pitch like the world series. Every single senior played well that day, and a simple out of conference win against Cazenovia on our spring break trip felt like the championship. It was justification to us that we had what it took to go all the way if given the opportunity.
So it did indeed suck to have it end the way it did. So abruptly, stealing from us the chance to chase what we had worked the last 3.5 years for, and our entire lives as baseball players. It was gut wrenching to have our identities as baseball players torn from us, leaving us empty and searching for the new defining feature of our lives. And it left us lonely, fearing the next years without our brothers from the last four. But it also ended exactly the way we wanted. All of us playing our hearts out with each other, and proving to ourselves and our teammates that we had what it took.Daniel Bonfiglio, Men’s Baseball