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  • Writer's pictureJake Ziegler

March 12, 2020: A Day Never Forgotten by Senior Student-Athletes

Updated: Mar 16, 2021

Quinnipiac baseball outfielder Evan Vulgamore and 10 of his senior teammates were on a team bus headed to Tallahassee, Florida. Quinnipiac softball utility Rachel Marchuk and one of her senior teammates were eating lunch on a day off from practice in Madeira Beach, Florida. Quinnipiac acrobatics and tumbling base Camren Diaz and 12 of her senior teammates were in the middle of practice doing a strength and conditioning circuit at the People’s United Center.

These combined 26 senior student-athletes were given some heart-wrenching news while doing these team activities on March 12, 2020. The National Collegiate Athletic Association announced that the rest of spring sports was cancelled because of the emerging COVID-19 pandemic. This news affected over 1,100 Division I, II and III schools that contained hundreds of thousands of student-athletes.

The news wasn’t so surprising for Quinnipiac acrobatics and tumbling head coach Mary Ann Powers, who’s been at the helm for 23 years.

Mary Ann Powers - Photo courtesy of quinnipiacbobcats.com

On the flight back from an Oregon meet, Powers got odd looks from others on the plane about what she was having her team do.

“I had them clean down the plane with Lysol wipes and use hand sanitizer,” Powers said.

While practicing for their upcoming weekend competition against Fairmont State, Quinnipiac athletic director Greg Amodio looked somber as he approached Powers to deliver the news. This already got Diaz, who’s also one of the team’s assistant coaches, questioning what was about to happen based on Amodio’s facial expressions.

“In my four years, I had never seen an athletic director look so upset, so we were all scratching our heads,” Diaz said.

Camren Diaz - Photo courtesy of quinnipiacbobcats.com

When Powers broke the unfortunate news to her team, their reaction was nothing short of emotional.

“They all immediately dropped to their knees,” Powers said.

As for Diaz, abrupt and disappointed were two words that came to mind about the cancellation.

“As a division one athlete, you want to have those competitive moments and things like Senior Day and an end-of-year banquet to have your coach stand up and talk about your best moments,” Diaz said. “To have it all stripped away was tough to swallow.”

It took about an hour for the acrobatics and tumbling team to psychologically digest this new reality. Once they became somewhat stable-minded, they blasted their music and did their routine one last time while frantically hugging each other.

2020 Quinnipiac Acrobatics & Tumbling Team Photo - Courtesy of quinnipiacbobcats.com

Powers created a Facebook post that reflects on her experience with this team, especially the 13 seniors.

“The genuine love inside that circle is something I’ll never forget,” Powers said.

Diaz said that the overarching feeling she has from all of this is plain and simple: gratitude.

“I don’t think there’s any other group who had a bigger impact in my college experience than those 12 girls,” Diaz said.

2020 Acrobatics & Tumbling Seniors - Photo courtesy of Mary Ann Powers

As for Marchuk and Quinnipiac’s softball team, she found the news heartbreaking because she realized she wasn’t ever going to play softball again.

“I hung out with my teammates as much as possible on our flight back to Connecticut,” Marchuk said.

However, she recognizes the importance of what her parents said.

“They said that I was lucky to be healthy enough to play any games my senior year,” Marchuk said.

Rachel Marchuk - Photo courtesy of quinnipiacbobcats.com

Marchuk is referencing a severe head injury she sustained her junior year that forced her to miss the rest of that season. She reveals the details of that experience, including the injury itself, the hospitalization and the recovery process in her “Letter to #BobcatNation.”

Marchuk also put the entire situation into a much wider perspective.

“I was one of thousands going through the same exact thing, so I couldn’t feel bad for myself,” Marchuk said.

Marchuk is particularly disappointed that the rest of the season couldn’t play out because of the promise the team was showing before the cancellation.

“We were becoming such a strong team at the end of those 11 games we played; we were finally starting to piece everything together,” Marchuk said. “There was no doubt in my mind that something was going to click and that started toward the end of those 11 games.”

Front page of Rachel Marchuk's Letter to #BobcatNation - Photo courtesy of gobobcats.com

Marchuk is grateful for moments like rounding third base while her team was waiting for her at home plate, and that left her with a main takeaway from this experience.

“I think we need to appreciate every moment of the things we love to do,” Marchuk said.

Meanwhile, Vulgamore for Quinnipiac baseball was constantly refreshing his Twitter feed while using all his cellular data to get the latest updates. Eventually, he found out that his team’s three-game series against Florida A&M was cancelled. Head coach John Delaney relayed that news to the rest of the team, and that they were headed back to Orlando, Florida.

On their way to Orlando, they stopped off the highway. Delaney asked Vulamore and his close teammate, Andre Marrero, to look for hand sanitizer.

“We looked everywhere in three different stores and couldn’t find anything,” Vulgamore said. “So, that was really strange to us.”

Evan Vulgamore - Photo courtesy of quinnipiacbobcats.com

As they continue their trip, Vulagmore’s Twitter feed starts filling up with news about many other conferences canceling its seasons.

“We were clinging onto hope, but I’m a realist, so I was ready for the bad news to hit,” Vulgamore said.

A tear-eyed and choked-up Delaney then approached the players. Vulgamore already knew what was about to happen.

“He’s not an emotional guy at all,” Vulgamore said. “He didn’t even finish what he was saying and we were already bawling and hugging each other.”

There’s one moment about that experience that stands out among the rest for Vulgamore.

“Once coach calmed himself down, he told us, ‘I’m going to do whatever I can to get you guys playing next season,’” Vulgamore said.

Vulgamore thinks that this moment speaks to his coach’s character more than anything.

“The fact that that was on his mind while we were crying is just a testament to him and the coaching staff,” Vulgamore said. “I’ve never seen a coach display that much care for their players.”

John Delaney - Photo courtesy of quinnipiacbobcats.com

Little did any of these senior student-athletes know how serious this pandemic would turn out when after their seasons got terminated. Over six months later, we have witnessed the monumental impact COVID-19 has made across the globe.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of Dec. 10, 2020, there are nearly 15 million confirmed cases and almost 284,000 deaths associated with the coronavirus in the United States.

To narrow it down to a state level, Connecticut has more than 141,000 cases and more than 5,200 deaths. New Haven county, home of Quinnipiac University, has about 36,000 cases and more than 1,300 deaths. All of this data is accurate as of Dec. 10, 2020.

In the end, Powers told her team that this will be something they tell their grandchildren down the road.

“The health of the world was at stake, and their greatest gift was sacrificing their season,” Powers said.

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