The Lehigh women’s basketball team was returning from a shootaround when head coach Sue Troyan informed the players that Patriot League officials were meeting to discuss the future of the tournament semifinal game against No. 2 Boston University.
At 1:30 p.m. on March 12, four and a half hours before tipoff, Troyan called a team meeting to tell the players their season was canceled due to the outbreak of coronavirus.
When junior guard Mary Clougherty and her teammates found out, they were shocked.
“I think this all happened so quickly, and we were almost in denial,” Clougherty said. “We had heard Tuesday that the Ivy League canceled their tournament, and we were in disbelief thinking, ‘This won’t happen to us. This can’t happen to us.’ They told us that we couldn’t have fans at the game. We were all sad about that, but still excited to play (and) to compete. But then we heard it was over, just like that. It was heartbreaking.”
The women’s team has six seniors who, unknowingly, played their last game against Colgate on March 9.
Entering the postseason, the Mountain Hawks held a conference record of 10-8.
“I felt so bad for the seniors on our team,” said sophomore guard Megan Walker. “It was an emotional meeting, and it was heartbreaking to see their careers end in that way. They played their last game, and they didn’t even know. It was just really hard to see how that affected them.”
Although the team is heartbroken, it knows that the Patriot League made the right decision to cancel the season, Clougherty said.
Everything the team does is bigger than basketball, so keeping a global mindset is key, she said.
“When something like this — a worldwide pandemic — happens, we have to keep it in perspective,” Clougherty said. “There are bigger things than us playing a game, and today, that was the health and safety of our communities.”
The women’s basketball team reached the Patriot League semifinals last season as well, where it fell to American University 69-57.
Although the season is canceled, the players know making it to the Patriot League semifinals is an impressive feat, Clougherty said.
“I think we are all sad that we’ve put in so much work to get this far in our season but, at the same time, that training was worth something,” Clougherty said. “It gives us the ability to play together as teammates and friends. Although our season ended abruptly, I would not have taken back all the training we’d put in just to have this game. I think practice, training and growing together is still the most valuable takeaway than a win here and there.”
When the players are able to return and have a chance to regroup this summer, they will be thinking of their missed opportunity, Walker said.
The team hopes to make another deep run into the postseason next season to carry on what the seniors left behind, she said.
“I think we’re all definitely really motivated,” Walker said. “We all know that we had really high expectations for the postseason, and we really felt like we were going to go on a run, and I think seeing how quickly it can come to an end — it gives us motivation for next year to not let everything that the seniors worked for go to waste.”
Although the season’s cancellation is beyond the control of the players, the team finds it frustrating to have the season end so abruptly, said fifth-year forward Meagan Eripret.
“I didn’t do a fifth year just for fun — I came back to win a championship,” Eripret said. “To have it end in a way that was out of my control and out of my teammates’ control was really hard.”
Online classes will limit how much the players see each other, but the team plans on taking a trip and meeting somewhere in the future, Walker said.
The team will be highly motivated for next season as the players aim to win a Patriot League Championship, she said.
“We all want to win next year,” Walker said. “I think everyone is going to be able to hold themselves accountable at home to do the workouts that we need to and train on their own, and then we’ll just have to get back at it in the summer. I think we’ll definitely come back stronger.”