After a long layoff, the team is grateful to be back on the field
Back in March 2020, all UC Davis sports games were put to a halt to avoid the spread of COVID-19. After much progress and a lot of movement, most spring sports returned to play this year’s season. Some fall sports, like football, are also allowed to compete during the spring.
UC Davis Softball made their way back onto the field for the first time in 11 months in February of this year. In their last season, they were only able to make it all the way to March 10 before having the last three games of the season canceled. This new season began Feb. 11, and the Aggies are determined to finish the season and face all their opponents as the year progresses.
“I’m looking forward to getting back on the field and feeling some type of normalcy even though it is definitely different,” said UC Davis’ softball head coach, Erin Thorpe. “It’s tough as an athlete when one of your largest priorities is being a member of a sport, and not being able to participate or play is a hard hit. For us to be able to play the game, and now compete, is amazing.”
Normally, 56 games are played in a regular non-pandemic season. This year, because of the pandemic and certain safety protocols, only 45 games will be played. This means that instead of playing five to six opponents a week, only two or three games will be played in one weekend.
“There are definitely many changes this season,” Thorpe said. We have a lower number of games than we would usually play, but we still have a full schedule. We’re also limiting our exposure to other teams as much as possible, we’re not flying anywhere and we have to follow the right procedures of the locations we travel to.”
The stress of being in the middle of a pandemic and trying to play the season has been on the mind of many members of the softball team. No matter how safe or how many precautions are taken, there are always risks.
Athletes had to face a constantly changing routine as COVID-19 guidelines were modified throughout the year. Players were used to always practicing as a team, and now they have become accustomed to practicing in small groups of three to four girls, or oftentimes, individually—which was a huge adjustment.
“Practice always looked different because we never fielded the entire team. Even when we had a bulk of the team tested, we never had the full team,” said senior outfielder and international relations major Marissa Jauregui. “The institution was making sure we were safe; we were getting tested as much as possible. I know that we’re getting tested much more now just because testing has really expanded. We test three times a week. We also heavily sanitize every single thing that we touch, and we’re very very strict on social distancing.”
During their offseason, Thorpe took the extra step to insure the health of her players. She asked her players to remain in a bubble一similar to the National Basketball Association一and they weren’t allowed to participate in activities that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention allowed, in terms of leaving the area or going out to eat.
Last August, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) allowed all athletes to opt out of the season due to concerns about contracting the virus. Not all players returned to Davis during the fall, but after keeping in touch with their teammates and hearing how smoothly everything was going, many decided to come back in December.
The players were isolated physically from each other and also from their families, but that didn’t stop them from keeping in touch and making sure their teammates were doing okay.
In order to stay connected as a team, the UC Davis softball team had to get creative on how to stay in contact. They held many events, one in particular was a remake of the wedding scene from the show “The Office” through Zoom.
“We’d be on Zoom with each other for an hour or an hour and a half just asking how our day was, because not everybody did come back from Davis,” Jauregui said. “Even though we were in different parts, we just continued to have those weekly or biweekly Zoom calls where we could catch up.”
Leading up to the spring softball season has been rough when it comes to maintaining social distancing and following the proper procedures to stay healthy. The team, along with its coaching staff have all been determined to start the season the right way and hope to finish strong. It is not what they were all used to, but they are grateful to be back in whatever capacity.
“Softball is our relief. It can be motivation in itself to get back out on the field, get the opportunity to play and compete, with all the other things we have to worry about right now,” Thorpe said. “We’re really trying to do everything in a safe way, while trying to get our normal life back.”
Written by: Katherin Raygoza — firstname.lastname@example.org