Senior Student-Athletes Still Hopeful

Desirée Keegan
Matt Hall tosses a pitch in the state semifinal game last season.

A month from now, Matt Hall and his Pierson baseball team might have been fighting for a chance to make it back to state playoffs. Instead, Hall is thinking now about how that semifinal game last June might have been his last.

“It’s really tough to have it possibly end like this,” he said. “It’s very frustrating that it could be all over for us seniors.”

With the extension of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s PAUSE order — a mandate that includes a stay-at-home demand for nonessential businesses, as well as school closures and social distancing rules — through May 15, the idea of playing again becomes less and less likely.

“It’s tough to wrap my head around the fact that there is possibly no baseball season,” Hall said. “We were all excited to have one last shot at a state championship, especially after how last season ended. We are all just hoping that we get the opportunity to play, even if it’s a shortened season.”

He, and many others, are trying to stay optimistic.

“I’ve been as productive as possible with all the free time I now have,” Hall said. “I’ve been working out and getting to the batting cage as often as I can, and I know many of my teammates are doing the same thing. We have to prepare as if there is definitely going to be a season.”

Belle Smith, of Westhampton Beach’s girls lacrosse, basketball, and volleyball teams, knows the laws are in place for a greater good.

“There’s a lot going on in the world right now even bigger than lacrosse or basketball,” she said. “I just think that as much as I feel my life is hectic right now, every single person is feeling the same about something else in their own lives, which causes me to be less upset and just more grateful that everyone in my life right now is happy and healthy. We can only control the controllables, so even though we are unsure when life will go back to ‘normal,’ we have to make do with what we have and be grateful for the little things and look on the bright side. Even though I can’t help but hope and pray we go back to school.”

For Smith, she has had more varsity seasons than most, competing on the basketball team for five years, and volleyball team for six. She would currently be in her sixth season with the lacrosse team.

“Each year my whole life I’ve looked to the seniors who were able to experience all those special events that brought them together before going off to college,” she said. “Fortunately for me, I’ve had the time. It’s the special events you only experience as a senior that I’ve been looking forward to most.”

Classmate Jaden AlfanoStJohn, who completed his senior basketball and football seasons, said he feels fortunate to have made a final impact on the game.

“I feel awful for the seniors who have not been able to take part in their season, and hope the pandemic is dealt with so they can get back to what they love to do,” he said. “It’s tough, but we all are being optimistic about the situation.”

It’s different for Smith than some because she is continuing her lacrosse career at Boston College, joining her cousin Hollie Schleicher, who graduated from Westhampton Beach last year, and has also been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A lot of my friends and teammates were planning on playing lacrosse for the last time this season,” Smith said, “so it’s very difficult for them.”

Hall, who is choosing not to play in college, feels for student-athletes on both sides of the coin, too, especially those looking to use this season to get a chance to play at the next level.

“All the seniors worked hard and were really looking forward to one last ride,” he said. “And it’s unfortunate that opportunity is taken away from those players looking for the exposure this year would bring. It’s completely out of their control.”

What he and others may be even more upset by is the possibility of missing out on everything else that goes along with being a senior.

“It’s very difficult to potentially have prom, graduation, and everything else that goes along with senior year taken away,” Hall said. “These are things that we all have been looking forward to for a while. We may not get the full experience of being a senior, which is really upsetting to think about.”

Smith said the thought of having it all build up to this crushes her.

“The past four years, you’re waiting for this season. More than that, you’re looking forward to your last prom, senior banquets, athletic banquets, scholarship nights, and the last few weeks enjoying every day of high school with your best friends,” she said. “I’ve always been anxious and excited for my final months as a senior, because they say it’s the best time of your life. For me, to potentially not be able to have that final sendoff and those events that bring everyone together is what would break my heart the most.”

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