The Brown and White complied a list of the top student-athletes in the class of 2021. (Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

Despite disheartening circumstances, student athletes capitalize on shortened seasons

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Senior women’s soccer midfielder Chloe Tremblay said she and her teammates first had an idea that their 2020 fall season might be canceled after the Ivy League announced that no fall sports would be taking place.

However, it was not until July 13 that the Patriot League ultimately made the same decision.

“I was in the middle of a meeting with someone, and I just saw the text messages on my computer go from zero to like 120 in 10 minutes, and I just kind of knew,” Tremblay said. “But I got through that phone call and then looked at my messages and saw all the news from my friends. I was definitely devastated. I didn’t think at that moment that there would be any sort of training in the fall or any possibility of a future season, so it really felt like it was completely over.”

Every student-athlete at Lehigh has undergone an experience like Tremblay’s in the past year. 

For spring teams, 2020 seasons that were already underway were canceled midway through the semester as students were sent home from school.

For athletes on fall sports teams, though, hope remained that their teams might be able to return to the field after Lehigh announced it would be opening its campus to students again for the fall 2020 semester. 

Student-athletes on these teams spent months of their quarantine devoted to conditioning and training for a fall season. Senior football wide receiver Jorge Portorreal said this made coping with the eventual news of a canceled season much more challenging.

“I was definitely preparing very hard to have a season, so receiving the news was super tough,” Portorreal said. “Especially the uncertainty of not being able to play with the seniors ever again. We came into college together, made a lot of great memories, so that was extremely tough to deal with. It was a pretty sad day for the entire team, honestly.”

While Tremblay and Portorreal initially thought that the Patriot League’s cancelation of the 2020 fall season would signal the end of the road for their collegiate careers, both teams were able to make a 2021 spring season possible.

The spring season took accomodation and dedication from all parties involved. 

Teams continued their regular practice and workout routines through the fall semester without the rewarding experience of game play.

On top of this, team members had to be ready to adapt and adjust to changes on the fly, as a single positive COVID-19 case could set the team back for weeks.

Portorreal credits his teammates and coaches for maintaining a positive outlook on the suboptimal situation. 

“Our team was pretty mature about it,” Portorreal said. “We understood how difficult it was to eliminate COVID-19, especially when it was on the campus, so we kind of tried to just take it day by day. Some days you would never know. There were days when we woke up, went to the facility and then practice got canceled. So, obviously, we did our best to stay away from interactions with others and follow all the rules, that way we could get a chance to play.”

Portorreal added that getting just three games in his senior season “meant the world” to him and his team. 

Senior men’s golfer Owen Quinn had his initial moment of shock that his Lehigh career might be over last spring when his golf season was cut short. The team was in San Francisco at the time, set to play in a few tournaments out west before returning to campus for the final two months of his senior season.

However, once the university announced the shift to remote study, and the NCAA eventually granted student-athletes an extra year of eligibility, Quinn decided to return for a fifth year.

Quinn said obtaining a Masters degree was a nice plus, but his main purpose in returning to Lehigh was to finish his college golf career. 

He said he was very thankful to have a spring season because he would have looked back on the fifth year as a disappointment had there not been one. 

Quinn said he thanks his teammates, who are all underclassmen, for buying into a season full of oddities.

“I mean, I can’t thank them enough, because it’s my fifth year, this is all I have left, and they could have easily opted out of this year for how weird it was and just waited until next year to play,” Quinn said. “Those other six guys all fully committed to coming to play and did everything they could to help our team. I can’t say enough good things about them.”

Tremblay said that having a competitive season in the spring made the entire fall worth it. She added that at times, practicing and preparing for games that are not taking place can become frustrating and that it gets old pretty quickly.

She said that she feels her team’s experience was unique because, for a time, they thought they had lost everything, and to get the opportunity to finish her career off properly made her appreciate it that much more.

“A lot of athletes graduate, then they come back, and they give you these talks about how much you’re going to miss it and how much you’re going to regret not taking in every moment that you can, and so we were in this weird position where we ended up sort of having that experience to mourn the loss of soccer, athletics, whatever it may be in our lives,” Tremblay said. “But then to actually be given it back, it just made everything an added bonus, and I think that helped all of us not take anything for granted.”

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