The softball team was off to an 11-1 start before the season cancelation.
Due to COVID-19, the NCAA canceled the remaining seasons for winter and spring sports on March 12, also known as the day the sports world came to a screeching halt. Professional sports all followed suit by placing all their seasons on hold. Nearly a month into what is now considered a pandemic, sports seem to be in the distant future. The NCAA has allowed an extra year of eligibility for those spring athletes that had their season taken away due to COVID-19.
Sports such as tennis, lacrosse, golf, baseball and softball were all cut short in mid-March, but these teams were just getting started. Specifically, the Virginia Wesleyan softball team was hoping to capture their third national championship in four years. This year’s team was off to an 11-1 start and coming off an eight-game winning streak when the news of the season cancellation broke. The softball team was preparing to head to Hawaii for a tournament that same week. The news came out on March 9 that the trip wasn’t going to happen due to the increasing concern over the coronavirus.
Coach Brandon Elliot believed it to be the “right call,” but also said that the news “broke their hearts.” Just a few days later on March 12, the news broke that the NCAA would be cancelling all spring championships and effectively ending the season for one of the most successful teams in Division III softball history.
Sophomore Aiyana Freeney talked about the range of emotions from that week. “There were so many tears when Coach Elliot broke the news.” Freeney also mentioned the disappointment of finding out that this season was ending. “Knowing we had all this potential and knowing this would be one of our best seasons was heartbreaking.” Elliott also noted that the team really came together this spring.
Two-time National Player of the Year and senior pitcher Hanna Hull was nearing the record for wins by any Division III pitcher in history. She reflected on what her four years at Virginia Wesleyan have meant to her. “I have had the absolute best coaches and teammates. They have shaped me into the person I am today, both on and off the field. I could not have picked a better program.”
Hull also mentioned the decision on whether or not to come back for an extra year: “As of right now, I’m undecided. I most definitely want to play another year, but there are some moving parts that need to fall in place for that to happen.”
All seniors have been given the extra year of eligibility, but the decision to attend school for an extra year is never easy regardless of the situation.
This senior class accomplished so much during their time at Virginia Wesleyan. From two national championships to All-American honors to holding the record for most wins in a season by any team in Division III, this group is considered more than just the most successful class in program history, but one of the greatest classes in all of Division III softball. During their freshman season they set the record for most wins in a season, just to break it the following season.
“I am so proud of this group of women,” Elliot said. The future of this group remains to be seen, but the success of this class has been unmatched since they first stepped on campus.