Maryland softball was getting ready to compete in its last tournament before the start of Big Ten play when the team got news that would change all of its plans.
After the Big Ten made the decision to cancel all spring sports on March 13 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the team’s season was suddenly cut short.
“I was sitting there in the locker room,” senior outfielder Amanda Brashear told Testudo Times. “I didn’t know how to react — like it was all just so surreal because never in a million years did anyone think that this particular way is how it’s going to end.”
The Terps were able to compete in five weekend tournaments, earning them a 12-11 record. However, the team will not be able to play in any league games, which were supposed to begin March 19.
“We could have been a contender in the Big Ten tournament. People don’t even know because we never got to play in the Big Ten. We didn’t play one game at home,” said infielder Anna Kufta — one of three seniors on the team whose futures are uncertain as a result of the sudden end to the season.
The NCAA Division I Council Coordination Committee has announced that spring sport student athletes would be granted an additional year of eligibility. But it’s not clear how this this will affect Maryland softball specifically.
Senior pitcher Kiana Carr, Brashear and Kufta had plans in place for after graduation. But now that their senior seasons have been interrupted, they are waiting to hear more from the NCAA on how the eligibility will actually work.
“There’s certainly got to be a lot of things spelled out by the NCAA,” head coach Mark Montgomery said. “There’s just a lot of moving pieces that I don’t know that were totally digested when the announcement came. I think relief for the student athletes is awesome, and I hope they get it it, but how you actually implement that is a lot tougher.”
This season was Montgomery’s first with the Terps, making the abrupt end to the season that much more difficult and cutting off progress that was starting to show, both in terms of individual players and the team dynamic.
His start at the helm was a rough one, as Maryland lost its first four games of the season, in which it was outscored by a 37-7 margin. But the team had started to gel over its most recent stretch, having won seven of its last 10 contests. One of those wins was against Wisconsin, which finished last season in the top of the conference and received votes in the last NFCA Coaches Poll released.
“It’s all about the journey. It’s not about the destination. I mean, we’re constantly moving towards new goals,” Montgomery said. “And unfortunately for our kids, they lost part of that journey. And there’s no way to get that back.”
Freshman pitcher Trinity Schlotterbeck was part of the team’s growth this season, spending more time in the circle in recent games. She said it was “heartbreaking” to find out that the Terps couldn’t continue their season.
“I feel like we were all just really starting to click,” Schlotterbeck told Testudo Times. “So the abrupt ending was really just defeating.”
Seniors on the team are now waiting for more information before they decide on future plans.
Kufta, for one, had plans to attend the Howard School of Law. But now, she says, the possibility of another year of eligibility might affect those plans.
The Huntington Beach, California, native has been playing softball for 15 years, and potentially ending her athletic career this way is not anything like what she had anticipated.
“I haven’t really sat down and told myself that this is all over. So I’m in the denial phase right now,” Kufta said. “[I’m] just kind of rolling with the punches, seeing what comes next and trying to stay positive through the whole thing.”
Brashear said the response to the news has shown the love the players have for the team and for each other.
“We’re there for each other as a family,” she said. “I’m just missing the girls and practicing and traveling …. I miss getting ready for practice, even setting up. You know, doing little things.”