Illini softball adjust to COVID-19

Head+coach+Tyra+Perry+holds+her+thumb+up+during+an+Illinois+softball+practice+at+Eichelberger+Field%2F

Photo Courtesy of Illini Athletics

Head coach Tyra Perry holds her thumb up during an Illinois softball practice at Eichelberger Field/

By Claire O'Brien, Staff Writer

The Illinois softball team was the last Illini team to play in a contest this year, defeating Missouri 2-1 on March 11. All sports were canceled on March 12 due to the fluid COVID-19 pandemic.

Head coach Tyra Perry said the Missouri game came with uncertainties. The team initially heard the game would go on, minus fans. However, fans came to what was the last game of the year.

“It was going back and forth,” Perry said. “(That) was our last game, and we didn’t even know it, so it’s pretty surreal kind of thinking back on it.”

The team is not able to have any activities while the pandemic is ongoing. Despite the geographic distances of the players returning home, Perry said the staff has been staying in touch with the players and she is planning to move to virtual meetings if the NCAA permits it.

However, despite being isolated and stuck at home, the players have also stayed in touch with each other. Senior pitcher Akilah Mouzon said the team is staying active in group chats.

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    “I talk to my teammates every day,” Mouzon said. “We’re just (going to) stay in contact as much as we can.”

    The senior class is one of the groups most affected by this cancellation. Despite the NCAA proposing an extra year of eligibility for the seniors, there are a lot of questions that remain.

    “I think I’m still a little bit in shock with this season being cut short,” said Maddy Adams, senior infielder. “You never know when your last game’s gonna be.”

    Adams added she originally found out about the cancellation via an email her roommate got but didn’t process it until later in the day. Adams said she was at a loss for words, and the team struggled to come to terms with the situation.

    Mouzon said she found out from a message she got, but her teammates were discussing the cancellation in the group chat while she was in class.

    “(I) remember sitting there, feeling my phone vibrate in my pocket every couple of seconds,” Mouzon said. “I was anxious, and I was very nervous. I couldn’t concentrate in class at all. By the time I got back home, I was able to look at my phone.”

    The NCAA has not yet answered a lot of questions about the logistics of giving the class of 2020 an extra year, such as how scholarships would be allotted if players choose to come back for the 2021 season.

    Even if the NCAA sorts that out, seniors might not be able to take advantage of the extra year if they have the offer to. Both of the seniors have post-graduate plans, and neither has decided if they would accept an additional year if it were offered.

    Adams said she was planning to take an internship once the season is over, and Mouzon said she was seeking to enter the workforce after she graduates.

    Despite the season being canceled, the team might be able to take the field later this year.

    The Big Ten is scheduled to take a second look at the cancellations on April 6. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is unlikely to be resolved by then, and the University of Illinois students won’t be in the classroom for the rest of the year.

    If the season gets reinstated, though, the Illini will be ready to pick up where they left off.

    “This is an opportunity to make a move,” Perry said. “We’re (choosing) to use this as a time to gain, a lead and move ahead.”

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