Game Over An Early End to a Great Season


An Early End to a Great Season

Digital Media Sports by Leigh Ernst Friestedt

The Last Game

October 1, 2020

With March Madness a week away from tip off and the Big East men's basketball tournament already live in New York City - the NCAA abruptly shut down college sports. Spring teams held onto a glimmer of hope that they might continue - but as the gravity of the COVID pandemic became a reality - universities sent their students home and athletic conferences cancelled spring sports - Game Over.

Princeton vs Stony Brook - The Last Game 2020

For Division I Women's Lacrosse, the unprecedented cancellation of college sports marked an early end to a great season. A month into the 2020 season, women's lacrosse was on fire with six undefeated teams competing for the Top-10: UNC, Notre Dame, Loyola, Dartmouth, USC and Richmond.

Maryland - the reigning National Champions with 14 NCAA titles - was no longer the dominant force, encountering headwinds against: Florida, UNC and Syracuse. Similarly, after three consecutive NCAA Championship Game appearances, Boston College suffered three early season losses and was in rebuild mode after graduating a superstar senior class in 2019.

2019 National Champions - Maryland

While Maryland and Boston College stumbled, UNC hit the ground running - dominating the #1 ranking with an undefeated 7-0 record against top teams: JMU, Maryland, UVA and Northwestern. Devastated by their double-overtime loss to Boston College at the 2019 NCAA Final Four (14-15), the Tar Heels were determined to win the 2020 National title.

2019 Final Four: BC (15) vs UNC (14) - 2OT / Taylor Moreno (UNC), Sam Apuzzo (BC):

An Early End to a Great Season

The decision to shut down college sports was An Early End to a Great Season. Division I women's lacrosse featured top teams playing competitive schedules under the leadership of top coaches focused on winning a National Championship.

NCAA Division I Women's Lacrosse Head Coaches

The Ivy League was the first conference to cancel Spring sports on March 11, 2020. Penn was preparing for their next game against undefeated Dartmouth, when social media erupted. Parents frantically tried to reach their daughters, who unknowingly practiced during the only two hours when student-athletes aren't attached to their phones.

What initially seemed like an overreaction by the Ivy League, proved to be the new reality. One day after the Ivy announcement, the ACC and Big Ten suspended all Spring sports indefinitely. #1 UNC had just returned from a big win (20-18) against Northwestern - still jet lagged after a day off, the Tar Heels were practicing for their next big game against undefeated Notre Dame - when Head Coach, Jenny Levy, received the text from UNC Athletic Director that the season was over.

UNC: Jenny Levy (Head Coach) and Katie Hoeg (Sr. All-American)

With competition intensifying and undefeated teams scheduled to take on powerhouses Syracuse, Stony Brook, Northwestern and Florida - women's lacrosse was hitting its stride. Top teams were knocking each other off, coming back strong and setting new milestones to prepare for conference championships and go after the 2020 NCAA title.

Florida broke Maryland's 86-game home win streak with a last minute goal by Shannon Kavanagh to defeat the defending National Champions 15-14
Shannon Kavanagh (Florida)
Stony Brook opened the season with a 17-16 upset against Syracuse at the Carrier Dome
Ally Kennedy (Stony Brook)
Syracuse rebounded by defeating Maryland, Northwestern and VA Tech
Asa Goldstock (Syracuse)

But amidst growing health and safety concerns - NCAA President, Mark Emmert, in an unprecedented move cancelled March Madness. The abrupt ending to basketball sent a ripple effect through the rest of college sports - culminating in the cancellation of all Spring Championships - An Early End to a Great Season.

Play Every Game Like It's Your Last

An Early End to a Great Season most profoundly impacted Seniors whose athletic careers came to an abrupt end. Without any warning, student-athletes were told to clean out their lockers and go home. For devastated Seniors reflecting on their college careers, they now understood "Play Every Game Like It's Your Last".

Brindi Griffin

Maryland - Senior (Attack)

Brindi Griffin
"Play every game like it's your last!"

Memories of waking up for early morning practices, lining up to run sprints and balancing academics with athletics - seemed like a luxury in the past.

Maryland 2019 National Champions

Virtual zoom meetings and workouts with teammates could never replicate the experiences student-athletes shared on and off the field.

Kali Hartshorn

Maryland - Senior (Midfield)

Kali Hartshorn

While Brindi Griffin elected to return for a 5th-year at Maryland - Kali Hartshorn made the difficult decision to forego her extra year of eligibility and graduate with her 2020 classmates.

5th-Year Eligibility

In an effort to rectify the lost Spring season, the NCAA extended an extra year of eligibility for impacted student-athletes. But what initially seemed like a great opportunity - wasn't feasible for most. With incoming Freshmen already signed and limited lacrosse scholarships available, the extra year of eligibility entailed paying an extra year of tuition. An economic downturn resulting from the pandemic coupled with the high cost of education, placed undue financial hardships on many student-athletes and their families - making a 5th-year untenable.

Ivy Transfer: Gabby Rosenzweig (Penn to Duke)

For the Ivy League, competing as a graduate student is prohibited, thus ending the careers for Seniors - except for a few who transferred to play a 5th-year. Penn's all-time points leader, Gabby Rosenzweig, took advantage of the extra year of eligibility and transferred to Duke, and Dartmouth's leading midfielder, Katie Bourque, will play at UNC for 2021.

2020 Graduating Ivy Seniors: Erin Barry (Penn), Ellie Carson (Dartmouth), Tess D'Orsi (Princeton)

Similarly, the Naval Academy restricted student-athletes from taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility. Navy's all time leading player, Kelly Larkin, will not return for a 5th-year as she fulfills her commitment to serve the United States Navy.

Kelly Larkin (Navy)

While certain educational institutions restricted student-athletes from playing a 5th-year, other programs used the extra year of eligibility to retain top seniors and recruit elite players from other teams. Most notably, the ACC (UNC, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Duke), Big Ten (Maryland, Northwestern) and Stony Brook, took advantage of the NCAA's extra year of eligibility to build powerhouse programs for 2021.


Returning Seniors

#1 Brindi Griffin (Attack)
Brindi Griffin (Maryland)
#25 Lizzie Colson (Defense)

A redshirt senior after sustaining a knee injury in 2020, Lizzie Colson will return to lead the Terps defense in 2021.

Lizzi Colson (Maryland)


Returning Seniors

10 of 11 Syracuse seniors will return to play a 5th year in 2021 including All-American Emily Hawryschuk.

Emily Hawryschuk - Sr. (Attack)
Emily Hawryschuk (Syracuse)
Asa Golstaock - Sr. (Goalie)
Asa Goldstock (Syracuse)
#1 Morgan Alexander - Sr. (Attack)
Morgan Alexander (Syracuse)
#11 Vanessa Costantino - Sr. (Midfield)
Vanessa Costantino (Syracuse)
#32 Ella Simkins - Sr. (Defense)
Ella Simkins (Syracuse)


Returning Senior

#8 Katie Hoeg - Sr. (Attack)
Katie Hoeg (UNC)


#19 Kerrigan Miller (USC) - Midfield
Kerrigan Miller (USC) - Photo Credit: Kerry North
#22 Katie Bourque (Penn) - Midfield
Katie Bourque (Dartmouth)


#7 Catherine Cordey - Sr. (Attack)
Catherine Cordey (Duke)
#30 Callie Humphrey - Sr. (Defense)
Callie Humphrey (Duke)


#25 Gabby Rosenzweig (Penn) - Attack

Unable to compete as a 5th-year at Penn, Gabby Rosenzweig transferred to Duke to use her extra year of eligibility in 2021.

Gabby Rosenzweig (Penn) - Duke transfer


Stony Brook's top Seniors: Ally Kennedy, Taryn Ohlmiller and Sydney Gagnon will return for a 5th-year as graduate students and join USC transfer, Kelsey Huff, to go after the NCAA title.

#30 Ally Kennedy - Midfield
Ally Kennedy (Stony Brook)
#21 Taryn Ohlmiller - Attack
Taryn Ohlmiller (Stony Brook)
#8 Sydney Gagnon (Defense)
Sydney Gagnon (Stony Brook)


#16 Kelsey Huff (USC) - Midfield
Kelsey Huff (USC) - Photo Credit: Kerry North


After being undefeated in 2020, Notre Dame will return 6 Seniors as graduate students to go after a National title in 2021.

Returning Seniors

#2 Kelly Donnelly - Sr. (Midfield)
Kelly Donnelly (Notre Dame)
#5 Jessi Masinko - Sr. (Attack)
Jessi Masinko (Notre Dame)
#6 Kathleen Roe - Sr. (Defense)
Kathleen Roe (Notre Dame)
#8 Savannah Buchanan - Sr. (Midfield)
Savannah Buchanan (Notre Dame)
#11 Erin McBride - Sr. (Midfield)
Erin McBride (Notre Dame)
#33 Samantha Lynch - Sr. (Attack)
Samantha Lynch (Notre Dame)


Returning Seniors

#23 Lindsey McKone - Sr. (Attack)
Lindsey McKone (Northwestern)
#12 Megan Kinna - Sr. (Midfield)
Megan Kinna (Northwestern)


#2 Sammy Mueller (UVA) - Midfield
Sammy Mueller (UVA) - Northwestern transfer 2021

While the extra year of eligibility will undoubtedly play a key role for the top teams going after a National Championship, the broader question is whether college sports and women's lacrosse will return to the field in 2021.

The Agony of Defeat

The Agony of Defeat is no longer losing a big game - it is not being able to play sports. Athletes take the field every day not knowing if this will be their last game due to a career ending injury, but the pandemic leveled the playing field and abruptly ended sports for all intercollegiate athletes.

Courtney Murphy (Stony Brook)

For top teams who have come up short in big games and are still struggling to make the Final Four and win a National Championship - the pandemic has helped to put everything into perspective.

Boston College exemplified the agony of defeat after losing three consecutive Championship Games (2017-19). Unable to win that final game, the Eagles left the field in 2019 devastated after suffering their second loss to Maryland for the National title.

The Agony of Defeat

2019 Championship Game

Maryland (12) vs Boston College (10)

"We just didn't want to leave the field without a win." - Dempsey Arsenault
Kenzie Kent and Dempsey Arsenault

Led by All-American Seniors: Sam Apuzzo, Kenzie Kent and Dempsey Arsenault - walking away from the field in 2019 without a National Championship was devastating to Boston College.

Acacia Walker-Weinstein (BC Head Coach)

2018 Championship Game

JMU (16) vs Boston College (15)

#5 Tess Chandler

In 2018, BC upset Maryland at the NCAA Final Four, but came up short by a goal against JMU in the Championship Game.

2017 Championship Game

Maryland (16) vs Boston College (13)

Dempsey Arsenault (BC) vs Meghan Doherty (Maryland)

Tied at half-time, Maryland went on a five goal run to open the 2nd-half, a deficit BC couldn't overcome.

While BC suffered the agony of defeat in three consecutive Championship Games, the Eagles delivered a devastating blow to undefeated Stony Brook in 2018. For All-American Kylie Ohlmiller and her teammates, the overtime loss (11-12) in the rain marked the second consecutive year that the Seawolves failed to make the program's first Final Four appearance.

2018 NCAA Quarterfinals: Kylie Ohlmiller (Stony Brook) vs Sam Apuzzo & Dempsey Arsenault (BC) - Photo Credit: Margaret Hyatt

But in today's new reality - the agony of defeat on the field pales in comparison to the crippling effect COVID has inflicted on millions of Americans. Playing college sports and losing a big game is a privilege that student-athletes, coaches and fans would welcome if it meant an opportunity to play again.

The Game Must Go On

As student-athletes, coaches and universities struggle to deal with a new reality - one thing remains clear - The Game Must Go On. The pandemic has transformed sports for the foreseeable future with no roadmap on how to navigate this new playing field. Sports are core to American society and as we try to regain a sense of normalcy - they serve as a key benchmark to measure progress.

Kate Taylor (BC)

Everybody wants students to return to the classroom and athletes to field, but as universities struggle to safely reopen - many have opted out of athletic competition for the Fall. However, for big time football and basketball schools with billions of dollars on the line, major conferences like the ACC, SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 are finding a way back to the field.

Professional and college sports are in the early stages of learning to coexist with a contagious airborne coronavirus. Creating a protective "bubble" for athletes who are routinely tested and isolated from outside contact is the current operating model under new NCAA guidelines with heightened safety protocols for contact sports. Although women's lacrosse is technically a "non-contact" sport - the NCAA has categorized lacrosse as "high-risk" - the game entails physical contact almost every play - starting with the opening draw.

Overnight the four-year college experience with defined seasons and championships disappeared and as we struggle to accept this new reality, the life lessons from sports are more pronounced now than ever before. Adversity is what makes champions great - the ability to overcome defeat, meet new challenges and learn from mistakes to grow and develop for the future - are the life skills student-athletes take with them after they graduate.

2020 An Early End to a Great Season - But The Game is Never Over

2020 was an early end to a great season, but The Game is Never Over. As teams work hard offseason to prepare for an anticipated Spring season - the shared sense of responsibility to stay healthy will serve as the ultimate test in teamwork to meet the unprecedented challenges posed by a pandemic to become 2021 National Champions.

#10 Annie Cory (Princeton) vs #25 Courtlynne Caskin (UVA)
Digital Media Sports by Leigh Ernst Friestedt

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Leigh Ernst Friestedt


Leigh Ernst Friestedt