On March 18, the Keene State College Athletic Department announced that the remainder of the spring sports seasons, which include women’s lacrosse, men’s lacrosse, softball, baseball and outdoor track and field, would be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic that is sweeping the nation.
“The decisions and actions that have taken place in a rapidly changing environment over the last two weeks have been difficult, but when placed in greater perspective, absolutely necessary,” said Keene State Athletic Director Phil Racicot in an email interview. “The decision to cancel the spring season was one made incrementally as more information became available and the situation progressed. This decision involved KSC administration, USNH system administration as well as all presidents and athletic directors in the Little East Conference (LEC).”
The announcement came a day after the Little East Conference announced they would be canceling all remaining LEC games in the spring season. This decision was reached by the LEC Presidents Council after a unanimous vote.
“We are fortunate in the Little East Conference to have a strong Presidents Council to provide leadership in matters of significance to our conference,” explained Little East Conference Commissioner Dr. Pamela Samuelson in a statement given over email. “This was certainly the case in our conference response to the fast-changing circumstances surrounding COVID-19. Led by Dr. Frank Sánchez, Rhode Island College President and Chair of the LEC Presidents Council, the council received input from the LEC Athletic Directors Council in making the decision to cancel the LEC regular season and playoffs. As difficult as it was, it was a decision that needed to be made when keeping the health and safety of student-athletes, coaches and staff at the forefront of all that we do.”
While for many Keene State student-athletes the cancellation of the spring season is simply the end of a season, for the seniors on the spring sports teams, it is the end of their collegiate career.
Senior midfielder on the women’s lacrosse team Tess Masci is one of those saying goodbye to her college career.
Masci explained in an email interview that even though she and her team had heard of bigger Division I schools canceling their spring sports teams seasons, she never believed it would happen at Keene State.
“Despite the fact that it almost seemed inviable, I never lost hope that we would be able to stick it out since we came from a small, DIII conference,” explained Masci. “We would keep making excuses like ‘Oh, well they travel all over the country, it makes sense why DI would cancel their seasons,’ but the excuses started to run out when more and more small, DIII schools canceled. When the news did come, even though we all saw it as a possibility, it was still as upsetting as if we were blindsided.”
The women’s lacrosse team competed in three games before their season came to an end, winning their last one against Colby Sawyer with a final score of 14-1. Masci scored once in that game, ending her season with four goals.
Senior outfielder on the baseball team Sam Czel explained in an email interview that head coach Ken Howe did a great job communicating updates to the team and making sure everyone knew the reality of the situation.
“Each day, I prepared myself more and more to receive the news of our last game,” said Czel. “We were told during our pre-game warm up this would be our final game… It made our final game together that much more special. [Coach Howe] did a terrific job in letting seniors enjoy their final moments on the field as well.”
Senior infielder on the baseball team Connor Walsh explained how tough it really was to hear that his senior season was coming to an end.
“Finding out the news that my senior season was over was tough,” said Walsh. “Knowing that we, as seniors, didn’t know when and where our last games were going to be just made us appreciate every last moment. Just the fact that knowing I will probably not play again and my last 40 games were taken away and I could not control it, [it’s] just a different type of defeat than losing a game.”
The baseball team played their last game of the season in Florida against Nichols College.
Senior attack David Wiedenfeld explained in an email interview that his and his fellow seniors’ season coming to an end felt unrealistic.
“When I heard my senior season was coming to an end, I was very disappointed. Not only for myself, but for my fellow seniors,” said Wiedenfeld. “Thinking about my last season being over that fast is almost unrealistic.”
Once more and more schools began canceling their spring sporting seasons, the NCAA issued eligibility waivers for all spring student-athletes affected by the cancellations. The waivers would allow all spring student-athletes to compete in an extra season to make up for the one that they lost.
However, for the seniors at Keene State, they say the waiver doesn’t do much.
“To be honest, the extra year is a nice gesture from the NCAA, but honestly, it won’t get me back the chance to play with my fellow seniors again,” said Wiedenfeld when asked for his thoughts. “We built a friendship and close bond over our four years and have become lifelong friends.”
Czel also said that he thinks “the NCAA giving athletes another year of eligibility only assists a very, very, select few.”
“For myself, I cannot afford to pay out of tuition for another year to return to KSC for one final baseball season,” said Czel. “Although a great gesture, this does not help myself nor the majority of seniors.”
Racicot explained that Keene State is working on ways to recognize the seniors on the men’s and women’s lacrosse, baseball, softball and outdoor track and field teams.
“Our staff and coaches are working on a number of things along these lines including highlighting seniors on our website and social media platforms, a virtual senior, student-athlete recognition… and shipping senior gifts as we get closer to the end of the semester,” said Racicot. “In addition, we have already begun discussions about in-person events in the fall semester if all goes well. The focus will be to join together the current teams, the senior 2020 class and alumni.”
As for the NCAA eligibility waiver, Racicot said that while he is unsure about the number of student-athletes who will “be in a position to take advantage of this opportunity… it is definitely a viable option for students to return.”
Although the spring sports season has come to an unexpected end, the seniors of these teams affected had advice to give to their teammates:
“It’s cliche to say, but cherish every moment you have as a member of this team. Every win, every loss, every easy or hard practice. Some moments may be harder to appreciate than others, but when it all comes to an end, they’re all moments you want to remember because they’re moments that you shared with a great group of people, playing a sport you’ve loved for so long. I would encourage my teammates to take a second during every practice or game to just appreciate where you are and who you’re with because life changes so fast.” – Tess Masci to the Women’s Lacrosse Team
“One piece of advice I would give to my teammates is take nothing for granted. As I became an everyday starter, I sometimes forgot about the immense gratification and satisfaction the game give me.” – Sam Czel to the Baseball Team
“My advice that I would give my teammates is to just have fun and don’t take anything for granted because, whether it’s an injury or something like the virus or whatever, that can end your season [and] playing days. Enjoy every practice and game with your teammates.” – Connor Walsh to the Baseball Team
“The one piece of advice I have for the rest of my team is to play like every game is your last and enjoy the small things like practices and every bus ride because the one you are on could be your last. Additionally, I loved being a captain for this team and thought we had a crazy amount of potential. Hopefully, I will get the chance to watch the younger guys kill it next year. Being part of this team was a blessing, especially thinking about all the friends I made, and it gave me the opportunity to play with my older brother again.” – David Wiedenfeld to the Men’s Lacrosse Team
Racicot also had his own message to all the student-athletes at Keene State College.
“Certainly spring 2020 will not be forgotten. First, I sincerely hope that everyone is well and continues to take all the precautions necessary to stay healthy and safe. Thank you to all of you for your patience, resiliency and understanding during these tremendously challenging times. We have all the confidence in our department and college to come together, to grow stronger together and to realize now more than ever that ‘Owls are Everywhere.’ You all have the opportunity to show us what it means to ‘build champions for a lifetime’ and we could not be prouder of each and every one of you. Go Owls!” – Phil Racicot to each and every Owl
Claire Boughton can be contacted at