We all struggled through COVID shutdowns in the spring, summer, and fall with hopes of finding some glory at the end of it all. A chance to lift that Horizon League trophy would have been the perfect prize for all of the hard work we put in behind the scenes.
But that opportunity was taken away from us.
We now have something to prove. There’s still some unfinished business. And our plan is to take care of it in the fall.
We had just returned from our 4-0 win at Green Bay when Head Coach Eric Pogue pulled us aside and told us we had to go into quarantine for 14 days.
It was less than a week out from hosting our semifinal game against UIC in the Horizon League Championship Tournament, and we got hit with the news of COVID contact tracing after cases were confirmed on the team.
As soon as Coach Pogue spoke those words, our hearts sank right to the ground.
Everyone knew our shot at playing in the semifinal game was probably over. The timing of it all was the worst part considering we had avoided those kinds of setbacks for most of the season. But to have it finally happen to us at a time like that was completely devastating.
We were already dealt a tough hand with the shortened season at a time when people weren’t used to playing. And yet, we still made the best of it by going 6-1-2.
But not being able to end things on our terms, after overcoming all of that, was a pretty tough pill to swallow. Playing for that Horizon League Championship and getting into the NCAA Tournament were goals we set for ourselves at the start of the season.
And it all went up in smoke.
Things turned bittersweet once the individual regular-season awards were announced the following day.
It was great for myself and many of my teammates to get recognized because I truly believe most of the top conference players were a part of our team. I was honored as the Horizon League Player of the Year and an All-Horizon League first team selecton, but honestly, I would have given those awards away in exchange for a chance to play in the tournament.
I would have sacrificed it all in a heartbeat for us to have received some kind of acknowledgement at the end of our journey.
We spent the most important part of our season watching the tournament play out from an apartment television. I think that’s when it sunk in that our season was really over. It never felt real until actual games were being played without us.
You watch these teams that you’ve played well against throughout the season, thinking to yourself, “Man, that should be us out there.”
It was hard, you know?
We would have taken ourselves against any of them in that tournament, and it’s just so unfortunate we didn’t get the chance to show that on the field.
But here’s to hoping we can make amends.
I’m thankful to still have my COVID year of eligibility, and I’m looking forward to getting back out there with my teammates next season. From everything that happened over the spring, I know we have more to put into the program and accomplish as a team.
We had both talent and teamwork. It would have been amazing to see what would have happened when all of that came together.
I just want to see this journey through to the end for the one school that took a shot on a kid from Ontario, Canada. Oakland offered me the scholarship, and the coaches gave me a chance to hit the ground running. I think them having a vision for me, along with me having that same vision for myself, worked out perfectly.
I’ve come to learn in life that things happen for a reason, even if you don’t understand what those reasons are at the moment.
When I was around 14 years old, I got an opportunity to travel to England for a week or two with a couple of teammates to train with Aston Villa.
They gave us a true evaluation of ourselves as players.
I remember receiving my feedback and taking it as overly critical at the time. But all they were doing was offering me things I needed to improve on if I wanted to compete at the next level. I didn’t fully grasp it at the time, but their advice stayed with me ever since.
They said my passing needed to be better, and I think my coaches would agree now that this is something I’ve always strived to be the best at. Things like that didn’t seem so important when I was growing up, but it was really key in helping me develop into the player I am today.
I’ll be whoever my team needs me to be to win games next season—a leader, facilitator, or supporter. I’ll show up in the fall, and we’ll finish what we started.