The University of Richmond women’s lacrosse team mourned the loss of its season as it gathered on campus for a team meeting on Thursday, March 12. More than the loss of any one game, this was a loss of hope, of anticipation, of time spent together.
Richmond finished ranked No. 17 in the final Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) poll of the season. Midfielder Madison Ostrick and defender Brittney Wright said that the team had hoped to build upon its 2019 Atlantic 10 Championship and exceed expectations.
The team saw the cancellation coming, said Allison Kwolek, the women's lacrosse head coach. The team had an emotional shift from Wednesday March 11 to Thursday March 12, she said.
"Wednesday, I told the team that I was still feeling optimistic," Kwolek said. "On Thursday, I told the team I hope we can get to Saturday to play one more game.”
The morning of March 12, the team could feel that bad news was imminent, junior Brittney Wright wrote in an email.
“We were all on edge all day but were trying to keep our spirits high," Wright wrote. "There was a somber feeling in the air as people got out of the elevator.”
The team met the afternoon of March 12 and Kwolek confirmed the news. Because of the spread of COVID-19, the NCAA had canceled the remainder of its 2020 winter and spring championships and the Atlantic 10 had canceled its conference games as well, according to Richmond Spiders.
“I found out over social media which was really hard but lighten[ed] the blow just a little, kinda knowing what coach was going to tell us going into that meeting," senior Madison Ostrick wrote in an email. "It definitely didn’t make it any easier, I think I cried through the entire meeting.”
Wright wrote that the cancellation was especially difficult for the senior members of the team.
“The seniors on our team lost their last year to play," Wright wrote wrote. "They truly got the short end of the stick.
"They will not have another pregame locker room dance party or their last first conference game in Robins Stadium or walk out with their parents on senior night. The little things are what matters for our team, the memories we make, the relationships that last forever.”
After hearing the news, the team was able to spend a few more days together, Kwolek said. Kwolek said that the coaches had already planned a team lunch on March 13 and they were able to continue their Senior Day traditions that afternoon.
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“Before we left campus, we decorated the coaches’ offices to honor our seniors as if we would have done on senior night," Wright wrote. "It was a collective effort from the freshman making the posters covered with wonderful memories to the sophomores and juniors helping with the actual decoration of the office. The seniors arrived and walked off the elevator into a room full of memories and love. Our wonderful freshman also wrote the sweetest letter to the seniors thanking them for everything they have done in the months we were together.”
On March 30, the NCAA Division I Council officially extended an additional year of eligibility to student-athletes playing spring sports, according to the NCAA website. The opportunity only applies to those who would have exhausted their eligibility after the 2020 season, meaning it mainly applies to seniors.
UR supported the NCAA decision, wrote Bridgette Robles, assistant director for athletic public relations, in an email.
“The University of Richmond supports the NCAA Division I Council’s action to provide eligibility relief to student-athletes in spring sports who had their seasons cancelled due to COVID-19," Robles wrote. "This is a highly complex matter and we are in the process of assessing how this action will impact our student-athletes and sport programs to determine the best path forward."
Kwolek said the most difficult part of the news had been the realization that the same group of women would not be together next fall. Kwolek said they had remained connected in spite of the circumstances and were developing creative ways to maintain team bonds.
In such a short time, Ostrick, Wright, and Kwolek feel that this team made its mark. Ostrick and Wright cited the team’s 13-12 overtime win against the then-No. 6 University of Virginia Cavaliers as the highlight of the season.
“I think it was just such a turning in our program that had people like ‘wow,’" Ostrick wrote. "It felt so amazing to be [a part] of the team that was able to prove that we are a top 10 team and we can compete. We belong with teams like UVA and we can not only compete with them but we can beat them!”
Wright wrote that she agreed.
“We did things this year that many of us before only imagined," she wrote. "We conquered our opponents as a unit and reached a ranking that we have never achieved before. Breaking top 20 and even tethering breaking top 10 on certain polls. This team legacy is not only about the wins but the connections we made.
"From freshman to senior, this team had a bond like no other. We all have left a legacy for teams to follow through our expectations on and off the field.”
Contact contributor Cassie Coughlan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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