WILMINGTON, Delaware — On a beautiful sunny spring afternoon in late March, the setting on the softball diamond at Archmere Academy in Claymont, Delaware, was just about perfect: Groomed grass and a pristine infield under blue skies with a complement of fluffy clouds.
But the Auks’ softball team would not be taking the field that afternoon or any other for the foreseeable future.
The novel coronavirus outbreak has closed schools in the state, and that also has meant the absence of spring sports.
Softball coach Dan Pisani was looking forward to a season with an experienced roster, including six seniors.
“These are kids who have played big roles for us in the past,” Pisani told The Dialog, newspaper of the Wilmington Diocese. “At least four of them would be four-year starters this year. Definitely kids who have earned the right to have a memorable senior year.”
Archmere senior Jack Nielsen, a member of the school’s baseball team, was resigned to accepting the unfortunate circumstances for the Auks’ squad.
“I’m probably going to miss my senior year season. But for as long as I’m stuck at home, it’s more time for me to get even better. It’s an extended offseason now. It’s time to reload and get ready for the next time I’m going to get on the field,” said Nielsen, who will continue to play baseball at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania next year.
Meanwhile, Bob Healy, the girls lacrosse coach at Salesianum School in Wilmington, said the team was looking forward to fighting to reclaim the state championship it lost last season.
“Our senior leadership has been outstanding, so I feel especially bad for them not being able to compete after putting so much into the program over the last four years,” Healy said. “We also know that every program in the country is going through these difficult times, and it puts a lot into perspective.”
Another senior who has had time to reflect is Maxine String, a lacrosse standout at Ursuline Academy in Wilmington. She has been thinking about the 10 days of practice the Raiders conducted before the plug was pulled on the season.
“It’s disappointing, it really is. I think about what could potentially have been my last practice, and I kind of go through those two hours every day, constantly thinking about how much harder I could have worked at that ground ball drill, or I should have yelled the cheer at the end of practice a little louder. It’s just the little things that keep going through your head,” said String, who will play collegiately at Jacksonville University in Florida.
“Never in a million years did I ever think I wouldn’t be back there. It’s really hard,” she added.
Teammate Hope Kenney, a junior, said the Raiders were excited about the possibilities for 2020, especially after losing 12 seniors to graduation. The team has reached the state semifinals the past three seasons.
“It was a big year for us to come out and show the state that we’re still good and still able to play super-competitive with these other teams,” Kenney said. “I was looking forward to going out there with a whole different mindset and completely new lineup. It’s upsetting, but we have to make sure everybody’s safe.”
Still, as the days pass, the athletes and coaches hold out hope they will be able to have some sort of season. The Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association has not closed the door entirely on spring sports.
Pisani hopes that at least some games will be played this spring.
“My heart really breaks for these kids,” he said. “My hope is we can all find a way to lift these kids’ spirits when this is all said and done. They need some good news; they need some kind of win right now.”
Lang is a reporter at The Dialog, newspaper of the Diocese of Wilmington.