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The Texas State softball team rushes to home plate to congratulate teammate Christiana McDowell for hitting a home run in the sixth inning against Saint Louis, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020, at Bobcat Softball Stadium. Photo credit: Kate Connors

The Texas State softball team was shaking themselves off from a 2-1 loss to Texas A&M when sports organizations around the world began to cancel their seasons.

As the Bobcats loaded up their bus on the way back to San Marcos on Wednesday, March 11, the news broke that the NBA had canceled their entire season due to the coronavirus, or COVID-19. Many others soon followed, and by Monday, March 16, the Sun Belt announced that they would bring all spring sports seasons to an abrupt halt.

In over 20 years of coaching, Head Coach Ricci Woodard has never seen one of her seasons cut short. Woodard said it took a while for the news to set in as the team enjoyed an unplanned spring break.

“It happened so suddenly that I couldn’t really think about it,” Woodard said. “I kind of looked at spring break and thought, well, we get to have a spring break for the first time in our lifetimes. It wasn’t as big of a deal and we didn’t have time to acknowledge it because it was kind of the norm for everybody, but this week I think it’s really hitting home.”

The adjustment took a while for both Woodard and her players. Woodard said this week, the team is trying to figure out how to work, practice and continue a softball career while keeping up social distancing.

“This week I think it’s really hitting home,” Woodard said. “(We’re) trying to get back on track with the academics and trying to work from home, so I think right now it’s feeling real. I think (my team) is all kind of thinking, ‘so what do we do next.’”

The Bobcats had been gaining momentum prior to the season’s cancellation, so it was sure to hit the athletes harder. Aside from the close Aggie loss, the Bobcats had taken their first weekend series against Georgia State with a 16-0 shutout win, defeated No. 17 Minnesota and had a 15-9 overall record despite a tough schedule.

Woodard said what hurts most is that the team’s success and progress could be erased so quickly.

“I felt like we were on the right track, things were starting to go our way a little bit, and with that progress I think these kids did a lot of hard work to get to the spot that we were at,” Woodard said. “I think that’s the biggest struggle for us right now; we did put in a lot of time and effort and to see it all gone in a day is just the hardest thing to handle.”

After two weeks without work, the athletes are allowed to resume workouts starting March 30, although there isn’t much to it other than working out from home. Aside from Zoom meetings and hard-to-track workouts, Woodard said that the biggest focus for the team is to stay academically eligible for next season.

“Right now the biggest focus is academics and trying to make sure that when this thing is over and school is over that they’re still eligible,” Woodard said. “I think that’s going to be the biggest concentrated area for us as coaches.”

Looking ahead, senior athletes will have the option to decide whether or not they will stay on for another year. All spring athletes have been granted another year of eligibility, but Woodard said that will also depend on their academic opportunities.

“It depends on the academic avenues they want to take,” Woodard said. “I think they’ll want to play still but it still has to be the right fit.”

The ‘Cats will go several months without play, something that Woodard said will make the team even more appreciative once next season comes around.

“I think kids are going to be putting in a little bit more effort,” Woodard said. “We always say, ‘play this like it’s your last game, try not to have regrets at the end of this. I think this is a big reminder that this can be taken away from you in the blink of an eye.”

The University Star’s COVID-19 coverage can be found here.

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