On March 12, the NCAA announced that all of its winter and spring athletic championships would be canceled because of COVID-19. At the University of Richmond, the remainder of 10 varsity sports teams' seasons were canceled.
On March 13, the NCAA granted senior athletes in spring sports another year of eligibility. Many senior athletes have ended their final season unexpectedly, unsure whether to use their extra year of eligibility or to graduate and begin working.
Some underclassmen athletes also felt disappointed because they were on teams with promising seasons or could qualify for an event in the NCAA championships.
As many college sports tournaments and events are canceled throughout the U.S., UR athletes respond to the end of their sports seasons.
The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament — known as March Madness — was canceled on March 12 by the NCAA. NCAA conferences, including The Atlantic 10 Conference (A-10), canceled their basketball tournaments later on March 12.
“Having the season cut short after everything that happened was definitely a punch to the gut,” said Nick Sherod, redshirt junior guard. “There really isn't a different way to describe it.”
The cancellation of March Madness was a complete shock, junior guard Jacob Gilyard said.
“It felt like this was a bad dream,” Gilyard said.
The only team ahead of the Spiders in the A-10 standings was the No. 3 University of Dayton Flyers. The Spiders played against the Flyers earlier this season at the Robins Center and were on a four-game winning streak heading into the A-10 tournament.
“We felt like we would have had a good chance to win the A-10 tournament,” Gilyard said. “[The tournament being canceled] stings for those reasons.”
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Gilyard said he was also hurt by the cancellation of postseason games because he was a semifinalist for the Naismith Men's Defensive Player of the Year award. Averaging 3.1 steals per game, Gilyard was also on great pace to break the NCAA career record for steals.
“I’m upset just because I sort of feel like some of the accomplishments feel like they were for nothing,” Gilyard said. “I also felt like I had a chance to potentially become the NCAA’s all-time leader in steals, and this only makes it more difficult.”
Gilyard is 111 steals away from breaking the record. An average college basketball season usually schedules 30-35 games. Gilyard would need to average around 3.4 steals per game next season in order to break the record.
The UR men's basketball team has no seniors on its roster and will have everyone back and eligible next year, along with several new players.
Sherod said that the UR community's expectations for the team would be much higher next year.
“I think that this past year, our expectations were low and nobody outside of the guys in the locker room expected this kind of season, but for this upcoming season, expectations are going to be much, much higher,” Sherod said. “I think if we meet the challenge and take things one game at a time, next year could be really fun.”
After beating No. 6 University of Virginia on the road, the UR women's lacrosse team was at 7-0, reaching the No. 10 spot in the Inside Lacrosse poll before the unexpected end of the season. The UR women’s lacrosse team has seven seniors.
“It felt like a rug being ripped out from under us,” senior goalie Megan Gianforte said. “We have sacrificed so much physically and mentally to push ourselves to be the best for each other.”
Gianforte has been a starter on the team since her freshman year, receiving numerous accolades along the way, including multiple All A-10 Team selections.
“I felt better than ever going into the 2020 season with this crew,” Gianforte said. “It hurts so much to know that we had so much potential and so much more to give.”
Gianforte currently has a job offer with the U.S. government for after graduation, she said. But with the NCAA granting spring athletes another year of eligibility, Gianforte said she was still considering what she would do.
Despite being 4-3, the UR men's lacrosse team still managed to rank No. 19 in the USILA Coaches Poll at one point this season. All three of the teams' losses came to ranked opponents, with two occurring in overtime.
“I still don't think it has entirely set in because of how quickly everything ended,” senior midfielder Tate Gallagher said. “Typically your season will end with either a win or a loss, so for it to happen so abruptly after practice was certainly unprecedented.”
Gallagher has one year of eligibility left, as he had redshirted his first year because of an injury.
The UR men's lacrosse team had won the Southern Conference Championship the past two seasons and almost beat No. 5 Duke University in the NCAA 2019 Men’s Lacrosse Championship.
“Having my senior season cut short was a pretty big blow,” senior defenseman Sean Menges said. “I will obviously miss being on the field with all my teammates, but I will miss spending time together as a team more.”
Women's Swim and Dive
On the women’s swim team, senior Hannah Gouger said she hoped to finish her career at the Olympic trials in June, despite the cancellation of the remainder of the swim postseason because of COVID-19.
During Gouger's time at UR, she has participated in four A-10 championships, placing 1st in the 100 and 200-yard backstroke every year. She also was named the championship's Most Outstanding Performer in 2019.
Gouger plans to work in financial services at Bank of America after the Olympic trials, although anything could happen in the future, she said.
“With everything going on right now, I know that my plans are at high risk to change,” Gouger said. “I’m just trying to stay positive and make the most of everything that’s happening.”
Sophomore Maggie Purcell, a member of the women's swim team, believes that despite the negative circumstances the team faces from COVID-19, the team will be ready next year, Purcell said.
“One of the sayings our team lives by is ‘Expect the unexpected,’ which prepares us to be mindful that things will not always go the way we would like them,” Purcell said. “Our team’s mentality has not been compromised from this bump in the road. We are ready to attack next season the same way we do every year, that is, with positivity and desirability.”
The women's golf team has had its three remaining team tournaments canceled, which included the Patriot League Championship.
“The [Patriot League] championship is a special time for all of us," said junior Lizzie Reedy, a member of the women's golf team. "It is the ultimate test of the skills that we work yearlong to master. I am looking forward to another bite at the apple next year.”
Going into her senior year, Reedy has several All-Patriot League selections and is the current Spiders all-time leader in career scoring average.
The baseball team’s season, which closed with a two-game winning streak, comes to an end with a team record of 5-12.
Despite all the heartbreak that has come with the cancellation of collegiate sports, redshirt senior Anthony Forte on the Spiders baseball team believes there is more to this time than negativity, Forte said.
“I’ve realized that although this would be a perfectly acceptable time to dwell on the misfortune of a lost season, it is also a time for opportunity,” Forte said. “Sports have taught me as an athlete that there will always be failures in my life and things won’t always go the way I want them to. I’ve tried to focus on moving forward from adverse situations by just accepting that I cannot change them and finding ways to capitalize on the chances for growth these situations present.”
Additional UR athletic teams
The other UR teams that had their seasons canceled are the men’s golf team, the men’s and women’s tennis teams and the women’s track and field team.
The women’s tennis season ended with a record of 6-5. The men's tennis season ended with a team record of 4-6.
Junior Brooke Fazio of the women’s track and field team was the only member of the team to qualify for the NCAA Indoor Championship. She was at the championship in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when the NCAA canceled all remaining championships. Fazio was unable to compete in the NCAA Indoor Championship because of this cancelation.
This is the second installment of a five-part series to be published about COVID-19.
Contact sports editor Krystian Hajduczka at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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