Falcon athletes say quarantine has made them stronger

Every softball and baseball player has had games rained out. Golfers and tennis players have seen thunderstorms wash away their chance to compete. There are postponements and cancellations in just about every season.

But when your competitive calendar is wiped clean, abruptly and completely by a pandemic, it has a very unfamiliar and unsettling feel to it. At that moment, the uncertainty can be overwhelming.

“It hit us hard,” said Katerina Shuble, a distance runner on the BGSU track and field team who also runs cross country for the Falcons. “I remember standing there in denial and disbelief that the whole spring season was lost. But we rebounded pretty quickly and shifted the focus to what we can control, and that’s being fully prepared and excited about the next opportunity we’ll get to compete.”

For the many Falcon student-athletes who are accustomed to welcoming spring as a time of intense competition to showcase the skills and talents they have been honing for months, the coronavirus initially left them feeling frustrated and discouraged. Track sprinter Chasatea Brown had a detailed roadmap for the 2020 spring season, with her initially continuing to practice and rehab a hip injury, and then easing back into competition. Once the NCAA basketball tournament was called off, and then the NBA season, she began to realize that her plan might be drastically revised. 

“You could sense that something was coming, but it was still a combination of shock, anger and disappointment when we got the official word that there would be no track season,” she said. “As a track athlete, you are always targeting the meets and the chance to race against others. When that gets taken away, you’re left with a lot of uncertainty.”

Brown said that after the initial difficulty the track and field team members had with the abrupt loss of their complete outdoor meet schedule, it was time for a quick re-set.

“I’m the kind of person who likes structure and thrives on having a schedule like a lot of athletes do, so we had to improvise,” said Brown, who plans to return in 2021 for a final season with the Falcons. “This virus forced us all to figure it out, keep our bodies in shape, do physical therapy at home while staying in touch with the trainers over the phone — a lot changed for us, but the preparation for that next race, whenever it might happen, continues.”

As a group and individually, BGSU athletes shifted their attention to “next” season, planning to intensify their preparation and ride a wave of optimism until those games, matches and meets return. 

“Initially, it was kind of surreal for us as a team,” said Nikki Sorgi, who plays both infield and outfield for Falcon Softball and had started the first 17 games for BG when the season closed in early March. 

“It was very emotional, but after we met as a team I think we all realized you don’t fully appreciate what you have until it’s gone. But that bond we have will keep us together, working even harder to make next season great.”

Sorgi said the team had been doing very well on the field when its season ended, and she expects the Falcon softballers to come back even stronger when they return to the diamond.

“I think that good start made us see that all of the hard work does pay off. Being successful made us appreciate those long, tough days of training,” she said. “We’ll use this time to grow and make sure everyone knows that we are still working toward the same goals.”

For tennis player Marta Bettinelli, the shock of a cancelled season was made even more painful since the Falcons were coming off their first sweep victory at home.

“We were very excited about what we could accomplish in the MAC, but after the temporary disappointment, we stayed together, supported each other and met every week on Zoom to share updates, challenge each other with workouts, and just stay a team.”

She said there is a collective push to reach even greater heights in 2021.

“We are even more determined for next season,” she said. “We are not letting this get us down — we see it as a new opportunity to do even better.”

Falcon first-baseman Adam Furnas said the baseball team was about four hours into a long bus trip south to play in Alabama when it got the news the season had been suspended. By the time the team was back on campus, the conference had called off the remainder of the season.

“We went from shocked to very frustrated in a short period of time, because we had really worked our tails off to be ready to go,” said Furnas, who had started all 13 games for the Falcons when the abrupt end to the season arrived.

He said the players had resolved to continue running, lifting weights, and working on their baseball skills when a second shockwave hit and they learned the University would have to drop the program due to the extreme financial hardship created by the pandemic. 

A dramatic fund-raising effort by Falcon baseball alums reversed that situation and revived the program, leaving Furnas and his teammates with a renewed determination to press even harder as they prepare for next season.

“It has truly been a rollercoaster ride, but I think it has made us all appreciate the game even more and appreciate the opportunity to play for Bowling Green,” he said. “We are in full summer mode now, working out to keep our baseball skills sharp, and I don’t think there is a group of players anywhere that will be more anxious to get back out on the field this fall.”

Golfer Kayla Davis said the news of the spring season being lost came so fast that the members of the Falcon team were in shock, but veteran head coach Stephanie Young helped them process the situation.

“Coach assured us that we would work through this as a team,” Davis said. “We were very emotional, but her guidance and strength really helped at a very difficult time.”

Since there is both a spring and fall season in collegiate golf, Davis said the BG golfers are fortunate that they won’t have to wait for many months to return to competitive play.

“We’ve talked about focusing on controlling the things that we can control, and that means how we handle the quarantine — how we spend this time. Our goal is to come out of the quarantine stronger than we were before it hit, and I’m so excited to see what the future will bring.”