The decision was highly anticipated and largely expected. But, nonetheless, it was met with heartbreak and devastation.
Coming off one of the best seasons in recent history, the Michigan women’s soccer team was poised for another stellar season. But, like the rest of the college sports world, that chance at redemption will be put on hold until at least the spring as the Big Ten announced that all fall sports would be postponed.
“I think what’s one of the things that has been the biggest disappointment is the excitement that this whole team had around this upcoming fall,” Michigan head coach Jennifer Klein said. “(We know) what this team would be able to accomplish and (we) really wanted to get out there and get tested and see if we could raise the level of our program.”
Regardless, the team acknowledges that this is bigger than sports, however tough it is to accept the season’s postponement.
No one has experienced anything of this magnitude before — it’s beyond even a season-ending injury.
“Injuries are easier,” senior goalkeeper Hillary Beal said. “You go through them and there’s kind of an endpoint and you determine when you’re allowed to return to play. But this is (different) because you don’t know when there’s an end (in) sight and you don’t know when you’re going to have the opportunity to take the field again and start competing.”
The Wolverines had just finished their first week of practice back together after a lengthy off-season and the team picked up right where they left off last season in terms of competitiveness and togetherness with the team.
“There was a lot of great energy and just appreciation for being back together as a team,” Klein said. “(We) really had optimism and hope that we would be able to pull a season off in the fall. … But it just didn’t make sense for us to move forward in that way.”
Now, with the season officially postponed, the focus will shift from preparing for competition to developing the freshman class, focusing on the future and keeping the morale of the team high. Klein sees this challenging time as a defining moment for the future of the program.
Each player is affected in a different manner, but no group of players is affected as much as the senior class. The seniors recognize that they can use this time to develop the freshman class and, although they may have finished their careers, they can impact the future. Beal sees a silver lining in this unprecedented situation.
“For now, we get to be around each other,” Beal said. “I think it’s more gratitude and just being thankful for the opportunities we get to have together as a team.”
As a fall sport, Michigan is used to jumping straight into the season without having much time to adjust to a new team. The new extended offseason has its pros and cons.
“It does give us more time to prepare and to reach those goals,” sophomore forward Danielle Wolfe said. “Also having that much time you’re prone more to being relaxed and falling back. (But), this team, everyone has their eye on the prize and everyone knows what they want.”
Every college athlete is going through a similar range of emotions, but Wolfe is especially proud to be a part of this team during this time.
“Going through this together with them is like a blessing for all of us,” Wolfe said. “The good and bad, I think that’s a big part of being a part of this team.”
For Klein, it is essential during this time that the team stay focused on what they have worked on in terms of accountability and owning your development.
“Dealing with adversity, dealing with sudden change, all those things existed at different points of our life,” Klein said. “I think everybody has a time in their life where they look and the path in front of you isn’t clear, but you have to trust the process and trust the people around you that you’re going to eventually see the end.
“(You have to) stay optimistic and positive that it will turn out. It might not look exactly like you thought it would, but it’s going to have to. There’s going to be something that is going to be positive at the end.”