COVID-19 Takes Away Final Season From Class of 2020
By Laurel Hay
The thrill of taking the court for the last time. The agony after the buzzer knowing it’s all over. I vividly remember every emotion I felt going into my last varsity volleyball game and how bittersweet it was taking my kneepads off for the last time to pack them away in a box somewhere. Now imagine this opportunity, robbed from senior athletes across the nation by the hands of a pandemic.
This became the sad reality for the Class of 2020.
I reached out to several spring athletes to hear first-hand what the experience was like having their final seasons cut short due to COVID-19.
“I was expecting [the season] to be cancelled due to everything else being suspended or called off Zachary Eveleth (Maple Hill Section 2) Varsity Lacrosse long-stick defenseman. "When the news hit it was kind of a reality check. Like wow this actually happened, I really just missed out on my senior year of lacrosse.”
That same feeling of shock presented itself in different ways among other players.
Joe Ferreri of Hauppauge High School (Baseball- Section 11), recalls being angry and wanting to find a way to play, while his classmate Mya Tallini (Girls Lacrosse- Hauppauge) shared that sadness overcame her when she heard the news and cried for almost 2 days.
To some, these reactions may seem extreme, but student-athletes across the nation have dedicated countless hours to and sacrificed so much for the sports they love. “I was devastated because I worked really hard to get there,” Narius Caesar (Monroe-Woodbury High School- Section 9) explained. He gave his all to Lacrosse for his entire academic career, but then in the blink of an eye, it all seemed for naught. Caesar said that in addition to his hard-work being moot, he couldn’t play one last time with his friends, and that is what I believe to be the hardest pill to swallow.
High school athletics are comprised of many different components, but the one that most current and former student-athletes hold in highest regard are the bonds they make with their teammates. Having a successful season is what all teams strive for, but it is hard to accomplish much when there is no cohesion between players. Ferreri stated that his teammates were what made his athletic career so enjoyable. "Obviously playing well and having a nice stat line is great but [in high school] its more about the fun with your teammates on and off the field,” Ferreri explained.
According to early intervention specialist, Amanda Morin, while a teenager’s mind is developing during high school years, they begin to hold their friends at equal importance as family, in an article she wrote for Understood.org.
Being that high school athletes spend a majority of almost every single day together, it is hard to not form bonds this strong. Not only are students with each other for 8+ hours a day, Eveleth (Lacrosse- Maple Hill) pointed out “We’ve been playing together for years, and what makes this abrupt ending that much harder is knowing that we didn’t have [our] ‘farewell tour’ together. No chances for funny stories or memories we’d cherish for the years to come.”
With the pandemic wiping out the Class of 2020’s spring sports season, these athletes lost any opportunity they had for closure. Senior year is riddled with goodbyes and “lasts”, but Statia Walker (Softball- Maple Hill) brought to light what most athletes missed most about their final season, no one got to say official goodbyes. No final practice, no last game, no more pre-game bus rides or team bonding dinners, and no senior night to commemorate all of the years. Tallini says that what hurt the most about not being about to play her last season with the Eagles was “not being able to walk across the field with my family and friends on senior night.” Leaving behind years of dedication, achievements, memories, and friendships, without the chance for a proper sendoff is a pain that most of us can’t imagine.
Now officially graduated, the new alumni are urging the Class of 2021 to appreciate their time as a high school athlete as much as possible. Some are continuing their athletic careers at a collegiate level while others unknowingly played their last games. These athletes had messages they wanted to share with next year’s seniors:
Mya Tallini: “Don’t take anything for granted, and make sure you can make as many memories as possible because before you know it, it’s going to be gone."
Joe Ferreri: “Don’t get anxious and want to leave high school and go off to college too fast. You don’t realize what you have until it’s gone and I learned that the hard way. You’ve had some friends for over 10 years and now you’re going off on your separate ways, make memories while you all still can together and enjoy it, don’t skip ahead because you only go through high school once.”
Zachary Eveleth: “Definitely play every game like it’s your last, leave nothing on the table. Live in the moment and if you’re looking to continue athletics in college, don’t get caught up in the recruiting process. Just have fun.”
Baseball will always be baseball. Lacrosse will always be lacrosse, but you won’t always have the chance to take the field with your childhood friends. Participating in high school athletics is a once in a lifetime experience, and any former student athletes can attest to that. While the Class of 2020 faced a reality that no other seniors could ever imagine and did not get to have their final send-off, they know that they were lucky enough to have played years prior and will cherish these memories for a lifetime.
Joe Ferreri, Hauppauge
Zachary Eveleth, Maple Hill
Narius Caesar, Monroe-Woodbury
Statia Walker, Maple Hill
Mya Tallini, Hauppauge