Monday, August 15, 2022

Coaches, student athletes reflect on lost seasons

Argyle’s basketball postseason came to an abrupt end in mid-March. (Photo by Katelynn Ray)

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of people in a way that most of us have never experienced or could have imagined.

From sheltering in place to social distancing to the postponing or even cancellation of almost any kind of social event, this virus has changed the way that we live our lives.

This, of course, includes high school extracurricular activities such as sporting events, where many of our area teams did not get to finish out what could have been monumentally successful or even championship seasons.

“We were actually having our last practice before the state tournament at the San Antonio Convocation Center when I got a call from the UIL (University Interscholastic League) Tournament Director,” Argyle boys basketball coach Russell Perkins said. “He informed me that they were suspending the tournament because of the COVID-19 virus with hopes of coming back to San Antonio to finish it at a later date. We just stopped practice, all sat down, and discussed how the safety of everyone was more important than a game.”

Perkins said he was impressed with how his team responded.

“The kids handled it so well,” Perkins said. “They wanted to protect their families and friends. We went back to our hotel, packed up, and headed home to Argyle to let the kids get to their families as soon as we could. We have not been back together as a group since we got off the bus.”

The Eagles were the top-ranked 4A program in the state at the time the season was postponed, with a 33-4 overall record. The team, along with other schools that qualified for the state tournament, will be awarded a gold-colored “UIL State Championships” trophy, gold medals and programs, as well as a virtual awards presentation.

Nate Atwood was named to the all-state team for the Eagles, while Atwood and Eli Valentino earned all-region honors.

The Flower Mound girls softball team was 1-0 in district after a surprisingly strong non-district schedule, and coach Mark Larriba said the level at which his team was competing and a chance to make school history made it all the more difficult to suspend play.

“Our team was really starting to find its groove,” Larriba said. “We played our usual tough non-district schedule and our seniors were really looking forward to defending the district title and make a serious push in the playoffs.  As a coaching staff, we really feel for our seniors because they were working towards being the first senior class to win four district championships in a row.  Actually, some small consolation is the fact remains that nobody took the title from us.”

Assistant coach Allison Baird said the Lady Jags reacted about as expected given the disappointing news, but understood why it had to happen.

“They were all upset,” Baird said. “But obviously the seniors are especially sad. They didn’t get the opportunity to close this chapter on their own terms. But this 2020 group of seniors is incredible. They are resilient, tough, compassionate, flexible, and selfless. They understand everything happens for a reason, so they are just happy to have the amazing experiences we already had.

“The freshmen, sophomores and juniors are sad they didn’t get to finish out with the seniors, and they all mentioned how close they were so quickly, so they are upset to not have the opportunity to play together.”

The Flower Mound baseball team was 9-2-1 on the season and on a five-game win streak when play was suspended, and coach Danny Wallace said it hit his team pretty hard.

“It was very depressing to see this season cut short,” Wallace said. “Each year our kids work very hard to get ready and they only have that one season of varsity.  Every team is different, and to see it end like it did was very difficult to watch.”

Wallace said he informed his players through their team’s app, but said most of them already knew.

“They heard like we all did when the governor closed schools for the year,” Wallace said. “That’s the hardest part for me is to not be able to see them on the field in the last game and tell them how much I love all they have done.”

Wallace said his players were “crushed and mad and disappointed,” by the news, and senior pitcher Cam Brown said he has found other ways to keep in shape.

“It’s been very tough, but I have just found ways to work out at home and where I can,” Brown said. “I’ve continued to work out and throw so that when we can play again, I’ll be ready.  It’s been really hard to not be with my team.”

Brown has signed to play college baseball at Dallas Baptist University.

Liberty Christian girls track coach Ashley Jordan said the suspension of the season took its toll on area athletes and coaches in another way as well.

“It’s hard to not be competing and showing all the hard work we’ve put in preparing for the season, but the absolute hardest part has been not being able to be together,” Jordan said. “Doing life and encouraging, preparing, pushing and mentoring athletes is why I love to coach, and not being allowed to do that has been the worst part of the pandemic.”

One player who understands this first hand is Noah Mahoney, a former Liberty Christian student and current baseball player at LeTourneau University, who was hitting .328, with 4 home runs, 17 RBI and 5 doubles when the season was shut down.

Mahoney said the news the season was canceled was devastating.

“This season was like planting a seed, but never getting to watch it grow,” Mahoney said. “So much potential, but never seeing it come to fruition. We had everything a team could ask for; chemistry, talent, veterans, and youth.”

Mahoney said the most difficult thing for him was realizing he had played his last game with his LeTourneau teammates.

“Every team can say, ‘this was our year, we were gonna win the conference,'” Mahoney said. “We believed that as much as any other team, but for me, what hurt the most was realizing that no more memories would be made with my brothers.”

Guyer High School’s girls soccer season was on a roll until it was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. Pictured: Team captain Emily Reyna and coach Mandy Hall. (Photo by Helen’s Photography)

Guyer girls soccer captain Emily Reyna, who has decided not to pursue college soccer, echoed Mahoney’s sentiments.

“Hearing the news was really hard for me to process because I had so much hope for being able to finish out my senior season on the field,” Reyna said. “I think it was especially hard because I will not be playing in college, so this was my last year to represent my school in a uniform and play my heart out for it.”

Guyer was 12-3-4 on the season and in second place in the district 5-6A standings when the season was cut short, and girls soccer coach Mandy Hall said in spite of the difficulties associated with missing the remainder of the season, she believes it will build character in the long run.

“I think a lot of the girls have learned the lesson that you can’t take anything for granted, so I expect them to come ready next season,” Hall said. “This experience will shape them and they will be ready to compete and to make sure next season is the best one it can be. I can’t say enough about our seniors and the leaders and players they have been for us for four years and this year especially, so we will definitely have big shoes to fill. But I think losing this season will only bring more motivation to the players next year.”

Coram Deo Athletic Director Cody Bartlow agrees, saying that his hope is that it will remind his athletes of what is most important in life.

“It’s been painful and a learning experience. Everyone has suffered through this from parents to players to coaches,” Bartlow said. “Out of this I pray that we all come to understand how tomorrow truly is not a given and to cherish the small moments with as much gusto as we do the large moments.

“This will be a generation that truly understands the impact of a handshake or a hug, and the ability to share a moment with a friend in each other’s company.”

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