The players didn’t want to believe it, still hoping to come together later in the spring to defend their Class 6 state championship. It didn’t feel right to the seniors for their careers to end that suddenly. But after the closure of classes was extended this week through the end of the school year, effectively ending the spring sports season before it truly began, reality set in.
“It’s pretty hard going back and thinking that it really was our last day,” senior Caroline Bean said. “We all kind of wish we knew.”
Langley’s players are among the many high school athletes in the Washington area affected by postponements and cancellations because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Virginia postponed its spring season and said it will decide in May whether it will be feasible to resume play after the academic year. Maryland and the District have suspended their seasons.
In addition to missing out on the enjoyment of playing sports, some athletes believe their offseason work was put to waste and they missed out on recruiting opportunities.
“This isn’t how I saw it going in any of my dreams,” Riverdale Baptist sophomore shortstop Christopher Owens Jr. said. “It’s really heartbreaking.”
Since Owens was a 4-year-old playing T-ball, he has dreamed of reaching the major leagues. Now simply playing at the college level seems ambitious after another high school season without baseball.
Out of middle school, Owens attended the Academy of Health Sciences at Prince George’s Community College, where he could earn a high school diploma and an associate degree within four years. But his program didn’t offer sports, so after one year, he put his academic goals aside to pursue baseball. He transferred to Riverdale Baptist, which fields one of the area’s most accomplished programs.
Owens figured to be a top player for the Crusaders as he helped to revive the program after it failed to field a varsity squad last year. Then Maryland’s state athletic association postponed spring sports, and schools are now closed until at least April 24.
Owens, who has four siblings, sees baseball as a way to pay for college. Now he will have fewer chances to prove he is capable of playing at the next level.
“Even if we can only play one game, it would mean a lot to me,” Owens said. “All the work I’ve went through to be able to wear that Riverdale name on my chest and that 'R' on my hat, it would feel like a good milestone in my life.”
Junior year is usually the most vital for college recruiting, meaning South Lakes boys’ soccer star Carter Berg may miss an important season for his future, too. For Berg, junior year was supposed to be about celebration and growth. As a sophomore, he scored 17 goals for a team that captured the Virginia Class 6 title. He was set to play a larger role this spring as South Lakes made its victory lap through Northern Virginia and tried to defend its crown.
But in the hour before the team’s final preseason scrimmage March 11, the players learned that Daniele Rugani, a star defender for Italian soccer giant Juventus, had tested positive for the coronavirus. The foreboding news gave their match a new sense of importance because many of them knew it probably would be their last.
“It didn’t feel like a scrimmage,” Berg said. “Everyone was getting hyped, way more than we would ever get for a scrimmage. I scored two goals in that game, and it felt like scoring two goals in a region [playoff] game. Two days later, school was canceled.”
Early on, some players remained optimistic they would have some form of their season. The team group chat was filled with messages about staying in shape and training from home.
“But as things have deteriorated,” Berg said, “the group chat has mostly been messages like, ‘It was fun while it lasted.’ ”
The lost season may be the most devastating for seniors, many of whom anticipated this swan song since they entered high school.
Bishop Ireton girls’ lacrosse midfielder Aubrey Williams is accustomed to ending seasons on a positive note; the Cardinals have won the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title the past four seasons. Before heading to the University of Virginia to continue her career, she was set on winning one more and making lifelong memories in her final year. But about two weeks ago, as the Cardinals traveled to a scrimmage, Coach Rick Sofield informed his players that it probably would be their final game.
Williams knew it was a possibility, but getting word from Sofield made her heart sink.
“I’ve been working out like we are going to have a lacrosse game the next day,” she said, “even though deep down I know it’s not going to happen.”
Jake Lourim and Ryan McFadden contributed to this report.