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Athletes and coaches cope with pandemic shutdown

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Noelle Blumel
Staff Writer

La Verne coaches and players have been trying to adapt new and efficient ways of continuing the athletic department ever since the University closed its campus for the spring semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Spring sports seasons – including women’s water polo, baseball and softball – were cut short and left unfinished.

Despite the devastating news, the NCAA said it would grant an extra season and semester of eligibility for all Division III student-athletes participating in spring sports.

“The NCAA also waived the use of the spring semester toward their limit of 10 semesters, regardless of whether they used a season,” Anthony Avila, director of athletics communications, said.

Avila added that the NCAA did not cancel the spring 2020 season, but indefinitely suspended it. This means that next year, in spring of 2021, athletes will be considered the standing year that they were in spring of 2020, allowing seniors who would have already graduated to come back and be eligible for an entire fourth season.

Scott Winterburn, athletic director and baseball head coach, said that whatever his expectations used to be, they are now being put on hold with a different preparation approach in mind.

“I have to prepare for how different it is going to be next year with an entire new recruiting class as well as all the freshmen this year who are going to be freshmen again next season,” Winterburn said. “We’re just doing the best we can right now with what we have and preparing for things to return to normal come Fall 2020.”

Anthony Salcedo, freshman third baseman on the baseball team, said that despite season ending early, he has been trying to work as much as possible to prepare for next season and make the most of this odd time.

“We had the groove, we had the connection, everyone was working hard to get better and that’s not gonna stop for next season,” Salcedo said. “We are all thinking the same thing. That next season starts right now, and the La Verne Leopards are not gonna be outworked.”

As for fall sports, such as volleyball, soccer and football, the same accommodations will not be made considering they were able to complete their entire season in fall 2019. However, they suffer the same hit with their off-season weight training and conditioning being cut short.

Matt Durant, strength and conditioning coordinator, said he would like to think that all of his student-athletes are doing their best to continue their conditioning regimen on their own.

“My hope is that the student-athletes, after being stuck inside, that they will miss the work and find that they need to be intrinsically motivated to get better,” Durant said. “I know it’s a hard time but they can do something. There is so much time that anyone can find something to do.”

He added that he will have a more traditional weight lifting program for his student-athletes once the ban on gym use lifts. But for now they are required to do daily programs that do not involve equipment.

Lauryn Pehanich, head coach of women’s soccer, said she encourages her athletes to take advantage of this situation which is not necessarily in their favor.

“Many times in life things do not fall in line with our expectations and we have to choose to move forward and develop or retreat and fail,” Pehanich said. “This situation demands you to reflect and not take for granted the opportunity that I have to coach, and that they have to play.”

She added that she is looking forward to the growth of her team, and the energy and passion that will come forth when they are able to step back onto the field together again.

Noelle Blumel can be reached at noelle.blumel@laverne.edu.

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