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Eyes toward the future: Student-athletes react to season delays

The uncertainty athletes and coaches have carried around since March finally lifted — but that didn’t take away the sting of a postponed season.

Both the Ohio Valley Conference and the Southern Conference announced that fall sports would now take place in the spring, due to COVID-19 concerns. And with the decision to postpone conference championships came a flurry of reactions and emotions from the Bruin fall sports teams.

“Although we are deeply disappointed with the OVC announcement, we certainly understand this decision was not come to lightly and support the decision to put the health and safety of the student-athletes first,” wrote head volleyball coach Katelyn Harrison in an online statement.

Belmont women’s soccer coach Heather Henson echoed those sentiments.

“I am disappointed that we are not playing this fall as all of our fall sports student-athletes have worked so hard in preparing for the season. However, it is a good reminder that there are more important things in this world than sports,” she wrote.

Belmont men’s soccer coach David Costa, though disappointed, said he supports the decision and commends Belmont leadership for its commitment to the student-athletes through whatever changes come.

“Belmont’s Senior Leadership and Athletic Department have been tremendous in dealing with this difficult situation and will continue to support the student-athletes, by creating a positive, safe, and productive environment,” said Costa in a statement.

Student-athletes involved in fall sports prepared all summer in the hope of a season. With that taken away, they now have to turn to spring in search of answers.

Mary Catherine Ball, a junior volleyball player, said the news was devastating — but she’s just thankful to finally have a decision.

“When coach Harrison told us the news that the OVC had postponed the fall, a mix of emotions rushed over,” she wrote.

“I had been grieving the thought of this day since March. In a time so chaotic and unprecedented it was relieving to finally have information that was set in stone, even though it was not the outcome we hoped for.”

Despite their disappointment, though, these student-athletes haven’t lost sight as to why the decision was made.

“While I am sad that we cannot compete in the fall season this year, I am confident that the University and the OVC have made the best decision to keep everyone safe and healthy this season,” wrote Morgan Pettit, a sophomore on the women’s soccer team.

Ball felt the same way.

“I am confident in their decision because I truly believe it was made in light of putting the health and safety of all first: student-athletes, coaches, athletic departments, fans, and families,” she wrote.

The only option left for these student-athletes is to look ahead — and for students like Belmont men’s soccer player JP Armbruster, that’s enough.

“Instead of lamenting the loss of the fall season, everybody in our program has immediately begun to focus on how we can start preparing for our next opportunity to compete, so I know we will be ready as a team whenever the time comes,” said Armbruster.

Ball also said the change in date for both conferences’ seasons does not mean a change in attitude for the teams and athletes involved.

“Because the fall season was postponed to the spring, we can now set our eyes upon the future with new goals and opportunities to play the sports we love,” wrote Ball.

“It is in our hands to be as prepared as possible for the spring while staying grounded with the fact that nothing is guaranteed during this time.”

This article written by Ian Kayanja. Contributory reporting by Julieann Challacombe.

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