In just five short days, Gophers softball had its season completely upended.
They went from playing in a tournament in Hawaii to learning their season over and their classes were moved online for the rest of the semester. While they had been guessing that some further changes to their season would follow the NCAA’s other moves to limit the risk of COVID-19 exposure, the news still felt very sudden, said senior pitcher Amber Fiser.
“A lot of us, still, are letting it sink in and everything," she said. "It doesn’t even feel real, I mean, I feel like I’m starting my summer really early. But then you want to go out and do all these things … and then you realize that all these places are closed down. It’s crazy.”
After the NCAA made the decision to cancel all remaining winter and spring sporting events, it announced that athletes who compete in spring sports would be granted another year of eligibility, allowing seniors to return for a fifth season. Fiser says she would love to return to the circle for Minnesota, but hasn’t made her final decision with the logistics of the extra year yet to be announced.
Before the NCAA ruling allowing spring athletes another year of eligibility, Fiser thought her collegiate softball career was over.
“Basically, when I found out and [it was] like two thirds of my senior season just got taken away from me. And I was, like, very devastated,” she said. “I’m like, ‘I don’t want to go out like this.’”
While all the seniors will need to make their own decision, head coach Jamie Trachsel said she would welcome the opportunity for her seniors to return for another year.
“They all have different stories, they all have different journeys and leadership qualities, and they are great teammates and great team leaders,” she said. “I think that anything you can do for seniors that have put in the time and paid their dues especially, you want to be able to help them and let them finish their careers the way they want.”
Along with Fiser, the Gophers have five more seniors on their roster: Brooke Vander Heide, MaKenna Partain, Carlie Brandt, Katelyn Kemmetmueller and Kaylen Krueger.
Trachsel has never seen a challenge like this in her coaching career, but she says what’s important right now is not dwelling on what they’ve lost, but on making sure everyone is returning to their families.
“I think because of how fast everything has been moving and how fluid the situation is, the primary focus, then, is getting everybody back safely," she said. "It’s just been a lot to take in and I think the primary focus is just making sure everyone is safe and healthy and where they need to be, and we’ll keep navigating the situation.”
With the acknowledgement that some things are bigger than softball, the Gophers are thankful to their supporters and are excited to play in front of them again when the time comes.
“We just appreciate the support we’ve had, the fans that have followed us,” Trachsel said. “We’ll be excited to get back to softball and excited to get back in maroon and gold and excited to see everybody back on the field in the fall.”