College senior athletes cope with coronavirus canceling seasons

Stanford infielder Kristina Inouye throws to first base in the second game of a doubleheader against Nevada at Smith Family Stadium on Feb. 22.
(Bob Drebin / ISIPhotos)

Kristina Inouye woke up on the morning of March 12 for what she likely thought would be anything but an ordinary day in her life.

It was her birthday, and Inouye was turning 22. The Stanford softball senior infielder was about to get an unwanted surprise.

As the day’s events unfolded, Inouye, a Huntington Beach High alumnus, was not exactly in a mood to celebrate.

“In the morning, the Pac-12 canceled things, and by that afternoon, the NCAA had canceled all of their tournaments,” said Inouye, recalling the mass cancellation of sporting events due to concern over the coronavirus. “Probably 20 minutes after that announcement, our athletic director sent out an email saying that all Stanford athletics were canceled for the rest of the year.”

Inouye said she processes emotional moments rather quickly because she does not like to sit on them. She visited several senior teammates at their on-campus housing suite and they took in the news together.

The Pac-12 has canceled all conference and nonconference competitions through the end of the academic year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Well-wishers sent Inouye “Happy birthday” texts. Her general response told all about the bittersweet nature of the day.

“Aw, thanks. This is the worst day ever,” she would reply.

Then something wonderful happened that began the healing process right away. Spontaneously, the Stanford softball seniors and a couple other teammates decided to go out to the softball field.

As word of the gathering spread by social media, the whole team found its way out there.

“I remember we all went to the field very shortly after we found out, and the whole team kind of met up there,” Inouye said. “It was the most beautiful thing ever. We were just playing around on the field and blasting music on the loudspeakers and enjoying that moment.

“It was really bittersweet, mostly bitter, but there are always little moments, where [it is] like, ‘I’m really glad that my teammates are here with me.’”

At 22-4 overall, Stanford had been receiving votes to break into the top 25 rankings for Division I. That was the most disappointing part for Inouye, who was hoping to build off the team’s first regional appearance in six years last season.

Inouye had started all 181 games in her career with the Cardinal.

Inouye was among the college athletes forced to come home after campus closures ensued due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. She’s living in Huntington Beach.

To a degree, seniors have an internal clock that helps them prepare for the impending conclusion of their playing career, at least with their present team.

With the unexpected end to the season, the extension of an extra year of athletic eligibility has been widely discussed at the NCAA, NAIA and junior college levels.

For the seniors who were on schedule to graduate in four years, however, they must weigh their options, with many looking ahead to life after college.

Matt Ctvrtik, a 2016 Corona del Mar High graduate, earned the Daily Pilot Boys' Volleyball Dream Team Player of the Year award in his senior year.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Former Corona del Mar High setter Matt Ctvrtlik had his senior season with the Harvard men’s volleyball team cut short. Looking at it from a glass-half-full perspective, the 2016 Daily Pilot Boys’ Volleyball Dream Team Player of the Year said he got the chance to enjoy 3¾ years of a great college career.

Ctvrtlik said that only undergraduate students are allowed to compete in varsity sports in the Ivy League, and he had his eyes on the future.

“I’m an economics major, and I actually have a job that I have signed for [after graduation in May],” said Ctvrtlik, who’s living with his family in Utah. “I’ll be starting down in Austin, Texas, in June for a commercial real estate brokerage company.”

Laguna Beach High alumnus Will McInerny, who was in his senior season as a catcher for the UCLA baseball team, is not anticipating an end to his playing days, whether that be with the Bruins or at the next level.

McInerny had intended to enter the MLB Draft after this season, but the abbreviated campaign has caused complications with no games for scouts to attend.

Through the first four weeks of the season, UCLA had started the season with a 13-2 record. The Bruins were ranked fourth in the nation in the Baseball America poll. McInerny’s father, Dan, who played in the College World Series with Cal in 1980 and was drafted by the Cleveland Indians, was hopeful that his son might get the chance to play in Omaha after UCLA lost to Michigan in a Super Regional last season.

“I was crushed when this happened because it’s our 40th anniversary this year,” Dan McInerny said of the season being canceled. “We played in 1980, and we came within an eyelash of beating Terry Francona’s Arizona Wildcats, and they ended up winning it in 1980.”

His son is still finding ways to stay active in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. He has free weights to lift at home. His roommates at his off-campus apartment are Kyle Mora and Nick Scheidler, who both pitch for UCLA.

“Luckily for me, my two roommates are pitchers for us, so it makes it easier just to be able to get those guys out,” Will McInerny said. “For me, those guys are getting me out there more than I’m getting them out there. They’re obviously wanting to stay active, as well.”

McInerny was hitting .348 in split action behind the plate this season.

The NCAA is giving spring sports athletes whose 2020 seasons were majorly disrupted by the coronavirus another year of eligibility.

The NCAA Division I Council Committee is scheduled to vote on eligibility relief for student-athletes who participate in spring sports on March 30. UC Irvine athletic director Paula Smith said she will have a discussion with her leadership team and make decisions for the school after the vote.

The California Community College Athletic Assn. Board of Directors voted to restore the eligibility of nearly 9,500 athletes competing in spring sports, provided that they had not quit or been cut from their teams in advance of the season’s postponement by the governing body on March 12.

The eligibility relief granted by the March 19th vote applies only to student-athletes’ status within the CCCAA. Orange Coast College and Golden West College are part of the CCCAA.

Vanguard University athletic director Jeff Bussell applauded the NAIA for granting another year of eligibility to its student-athletes whose seasons had ended abruptly.

“Since the spring sports season was canceled, the NAIA made the determination that no spring sport student-athlete will be charged a season of competition,” Bussell said in an email. “Any spring sport student-athlete who was enrolled full-time in 2020 will be awarded two additional semester terms of attendance. This extra year of eligibility is extended to all student-athletes regardless of year in school.”

Seniors like Fountain Valley baseball player Jake Brooks, a UCLA commit, have to develop a “wait and see” approach as college spots may not be guaranteed.

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