On Thursday, March 12, 2020, the entire college sports world came to a halt, including the immediate suspension of all Great American Conference games.
The previous Monday, March 9, everything seemed normal. We were going to head to Oklahoma Baptist University on Thursday, play four games, and come back home late Saturday night. We practiced like normal on Tuesday amid growing concerns about the virus and what was going to happen. Wednesday, the whole team heard about March Madness and the teams playing with no crowd. Thursday, we went out to practice, wondering if it would be our last.
As a senior, I was terrified. I may have played my last game of softball ever, and I did not even know it at the time. We all felt so many emotions that day. My fellow seniors and I were in shock when head coach Phil Berry broke the news. He told us at the beginning of practice to think of it as the last one. It was overwhelming in so many ways. We also got news of the Harding campus shutting down and transitioning to online.
People in sports always say, “Play every game like it’s going to be your last.” As athletes, we hear it so often, but we don’t truly understand what it means. For most of us, we know when our last game is going to be. At least, we think we know. My last game of my senior season had already been played in Durant, Oklahoma, against Southeastern Oklahoma.
Harding softball had five seniors this year whose final season was cut short: Katie Carney, Lindsey Duncan, Aidan Nichols, Mary Mills Lochala and me. This group of seniors poured everything we had into Lady Bison softball, and we wanted to accomplish so much. Katie, Lindsey and I had been at Harding since our freshman year. We were a part of the team that won a conference championship, hosted and won a regional, and hosted a super regional. We were one out away from heading to the world series. Aidan joined us in 2018 and made an immediate impact on the team. Mary Mills joined us in 2019 and brought her passion for the game.
Soon after the cancellation of the season, we waited to hear about eligibility relief for spring sport seniors. We found out that Division II was allowing seniors to return for a fifth year. While the other seniors already have jobs lined up and weddings to plan, I have decided to come back for a fifth year and start my Master of Business Administration through Harding. We will be honoring the four seniors at Family Weekend in the fall.
I can’t wait to see what Harding softball accomplishes during the 2021 season. This whole situation has enhanced my mindset. Every time I step on the field next year, I will not take it for granted. I want to play my last season for my group of seniors who didn’t get to finish theirs.
Briley Feringa, April 10