When Plattsburgh State athletics came to a halt March 13 after concerns of the coronavirus pandemic, PSU athletes mourned lost seasons but also acknowledged the bigger picture.
The 26-1 women’s hockey team had its sights set on the NCAA Division III tournament’s quarterfinals after beating Oswego State for its third-straight NEWHL title. Instead, their season was cut short. Their chance to defend last season’s title was gone.
Sophomore goaltender Ashley Davis was hanging out with her teammates in the living room of the hockey house, an off-campus apartment occupied by hockey team members, before practice March 13 — one day before the quarterfinals.
Rumors about upcoming games being canceled were floating around the athletics department, so Davis and her teammates continually refreshed the NCAA Twitter page for updates on the decision. At 4:15 p.m., a teammate told everyone to check their phones.
The NCAA had officially canceled all upcoming games, including the Division III tournament. The athletes made their way to the Field House’s ice arena for practice an hour later. There, they talked with head coach Kevin Houle about it in what was their last practice of the semester.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Davis said. “You put your whole heart and work into a season. You put your heart and soul into that.”
Davis was disappointed about the outcome. She wished the NCAA allowed the team to finish its season. However, Davis is pleased the NCAA decided to extend athletes’ eligibility for the lost time.
Athletics and Recreation Director Michael Howard said the NCAA Division III title will be left vacant for the year.
“I definitely would have rather competed and lost than to have it taken,” Davis said.
Despite being disappointed with the decision, Davis is staying positive for next season—a privilege not available to the senior class.
During summer 2016, senior forward Sarah Wolf trained to prepare for her first season as a Cardinal. Unfortunately, she suffered a torn ACL that made her unable to play. Houle made an arrangement where Wolf could reshirt that season. This allowed her to watch the team play from the stands without being on the official roster.
“I had the honor to watch them win a championship,” Wolf said. “Seeing that made me excited and want to work harder to get back. Just seeing them win made me excited and think, ‘That could be me.’”
Wolf recovered by the next season and helped the team win multiple championships in the following seasons.
Wolf was on her way to practice when she got a call from Head Athletics Trainer Jason Pachter. He asked normal questions like, “How are you?” and “Are you OK?” Wolf told him she was fine and the conversation leaned toward Wolf’s fear. Pachter advised her to prepare for the worst case scenario, which made her nervous. Upon arrival, Wolf received a Facebook group message from the team informing everyone of the NCAA’s decision.
“I was heartbroken,” Wolf said. “I just broke down and started crying.”
Women’s lacrosse senior defender Katelyn McCabe was in a team meeting when she discovered the news.
“It’s honestly devastating,” McCabe said.
Women’s lacrosse started as a club sport, which McCabe was a part of, until it was added as the 18th varsity sport in PSU during 2017.
She returned home to Long Island where she misses lacrosse, her teammates and being a Cardinal.
The athletics department is keeping its spirits high despite the pandemic. Women’s lacrosse head coach Julia Decker is staying connected to her team via Zoom video chats. Her team was doing well before the outbreak with a four-win streak under their belt. She said it was a tragic way to end the season.
“We were in a good place with the team,” Decker said. “We had more to give.”
Decker is currently keeping morale up with online team workouts so the team stays active during their time away from lacrosse.
Joseph May coaches the men’s lacrosse team full-time. He spends nine months out of the year preparing for the season and starts over again when it’s finished. Initially, May wasn’t behind the decision and considered it drastic but has changed his view given the rapid developments of COVID-19.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” May said. “However, it was ultimately the better decision.”
May is currently self-quarantined in his Plattsburgh home and meets with his players individually via FaceTime to check-in for at least 30 minutes. May and the men’s lacrosse team are staying motivated for the next season by encouraging one another and reflecting on their spring season performance. May said they aim to improve and get ready for next spring.
“It is not about what you’re dealt,” May said. “It’s about how you play the cards.”
Howard is self quarantined in his Plattsburgh home while occasionally visiting his office to work.
“It’s a tragic situation,” Howard said. “It was hard for me to stomach.”
The athletics department released a video statement on its website that features Howard and head coaches giving inspirational words to athletes with a promise to honor the senior class.
“Our hearts go out to our women’s ice hockey program and all of our spring teams who had their season cut short a little more than a week ago,” Howard said in the video statement. “And to our senior class, I know I speak for our entire athletics department when I tell you how truly sorry we are for finding ourselves in the situation we are in today.”
Howard is contemplating ideas on how PSU can give athletes, especially seniors, recognition while following the social distancing regulations. Athletes could possibly receive a certificate and blanket in the mail near the end of the semester. He said he’s also working out the logistics of a possible virtual awards ceremony later in May.
Howard encourages athletes to spend less time thinking of circumstances out of their control and instead focus more on what they’ve accomplished to date.
He wants every athlete to know the athletics department will spend weeks, maybe months, thinking of a way to honor those whose seasons were taken from them.
“I say this with great passion,” Howard said. “We are in this together. We have an old saying in Cardinal country: Cards fly together.”
Email Mataeo Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org