By Kayla McManama
For Morgan Murphy, a senior on Flagler’s softball team, news that the rest of their season had been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic—because of a unique family connection—hit home in an unexpected way.
“I started crying because I have a twin sister on the team,” she said about the moment when she first heard. “So that was going to be our last time we were ever going to play together and everything we’ve experienced with our teammates. I felt like we were going to do really good in our conference this year and not getting that chance and having that same group of girls together was all going through my mind at that time.”
As Flagler College finishes up its last week of classes and postpones it’s on-campus graduation until next December, senior athletes and others have begun reflecting on how their seasons came to a close.
Murphy was one of the dozens of Flagler athletes who found out in March that the rest of their seasons would be cancelled. For many senior athletes, they had to come to terms that they were having to say goodbye to the sports they grew up with and their teams a lot sooner than expected.
Ethan Jones is a senior on Flagler’s baseball team and Kim Jakobs is a senior on Flagler’s golf team. Both Jones and Jakobs said they heard the news over social media before their coaches had the opportunity to tell them.
“Our coach was going to tell us at 2pm and then they were going to tweet it, but the Peach Belt tweeted it before and we all saw it on our phones before he could even tell us,” Jones said. “It really didn’t hit me at first, even the whole bus ride home. I don’t think it hit me until like another week in and it was like, ‘wow, I don’t know if I’ll ever play again or if I’ll ever play with these guys again.’”
Jakobs didn’t want to believe the news.
“I was with another teammate and unfortunately we saw it on Instagram that our season was over. I didn’t want to believe it until our coach said something or if the president announced it, then the day after we had a team meeting and at the same time the Peach Belt Conference announced our season was over,” she said. “It was shocking and I was heartbroken.”
Joseph Joyner, President of Flagler College, said it was difficult to deliver the news to the campus, but due to the option of allowing senior athletes to come back for another season, a redshirt year, it made it a little easier.
“Fortunately, the NCAA moves very quickly with deciding to give them the option of an additional year. That made it a little easier, obviously not totally easy, but our senior athletes represent the leadership of this college and it was terrible for them not to finish their senior year out,” Joyner said. “It softened it a little bit that if they wanted to come back for another year they would be able to.”
Jakobs made the decision to take the additional year and to comeback to Flagler for another season. For Jones, he is going to take the redshirt year, but as a grad-transfer.
“Now I’m getting the ability to get my graduate school paid for or at least a year or part of it and that’s a positive financially for me and my family,” Jones said.
Murphy is unsure whether she is going to be taking the redshirt year.
“I haven’t decided, there are just so many unknowns. We have been in contact with the coach and we just need to figure out if certain scholarships we get for academics and stuff, if we would still get that,” Murphy said. “Then I’ve applied to some jobs and if I get the job I’ve been wanting then I’ll probably just have to take the job. I personally want to come back and I want to finish my senior year, but there are just so many unknowns.”
The impact of COVID-19 on student athletes and institutions across the country has led to the United as One campaign to show that no one is alone, which Murphy said was the one thing that has comforted her during this time.
“It comforts me more that everyone is going through it. So like every sport, every school, everyone in the country is going through the same thing,” she said. “So having the support of all the conferences and the NCAA and your teammates, it isn’t as bad now.”