On March 13, 2020, the decision was made to cancel spring sports across the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference due to COVID-19. These decisions were made across the country as well, bringing an unexpected end to the seasons, and in many cases, careers, of several collegiate student-athletes.
Edgewood College was one of those schools greatly impacted as several spring sport seniors saw their careers come to an abrupt end.
Over the next several weeks, EdgewoodCollegeEagles.com aims to tell the stories of those senior student-athletes in our Senior Spotlight Series. We begin this week with Women’s Tennis.
The Edgewood College Women’s Tennis team was in the middle of yet another outstanding season. The Eagles, who split their season between the fall and spring, were coming off another NACC Regular Season Championship in the fall. They were set for a four-match spring break trip to Hilton Head, South Carolina over the week of March 16 and gearing up for their spring season in preparation for the 2020 NACC Tournament.
The Wednesday prior to leaving for the spring trip everything seemed normal for the Eagles as they were set to depart two days later. Then Thursday came and sports across the country were starting to see cancellations and postponements due to COVID-19. Thursday afternoon saw the cancellation of the spring trip, but Friday saw even worse news for the program: The 2020 spring season would be canceled.
The Eagles wouldn’t be able to defend their NACC Tournament title. They wouldn’t be able to play any of the nine matches left on the schedule before the league tournament. But the worst news of all: seniors Alyssa Carew, Alicia Picard, and Sydney Verbauwhede likely had their careers abruptly end.
“As soon as it happened my heart sunk,” Carew said when recalling when she found out the rest of the season was canceled. “We were preparing for the end in May, but to have to process everything in two days was tough. I’m still struggling to process it and I just can’t grasp the concept that it’s over.”
What makes it so hard to process is these seniors had no control over what happened. Athletes often are told to worry about what they can control. The work they put it, what type of shot they hit, how they prepare for matches and opponents. Those are things one can control when it comes to sports and those often impact outcomes.
“It feels like we were robbed of our season, but I can’t control any of that,” Verbauwhede said. “That makes it more frustrating, that I can’t change the situation or do anything about it.”
The season they were robbed of was shaping up as another memorable year for the Eagles, who were 13-3. Edgewood College played 14 of those matches during the fall, including going 9-0 in conference play en route to another league title. They would have been the top seed and favorites heading into the 2020 NACC Tournament, which was scheduled for May 3 in Madison.
The NACC Tournament in May is the same one the Eagles won just a season ago, their first since 2015. The tournament win gave these three outstanding student-athletes their first trip to the NCAA Tournament where they faced off against Carleton College. That moment, both winning the NACC Tournament and playing in the NCAA Tournament, was one that stood out to all three of them.
“I know we will probably all say this, but making it to the NCAA Tournament,” Picard stated when recalling her favorite moment. “We were really close the two years before. We got more experience and knew we could play at that level and to have that result was rewarding.”
Carew added: “When I found out my match was stopped [in the NACC Finals when the Eagles reached five points] and we had won, it felt so amazing to know that we had reached our goal.”
This season, the Eagles were likely going to head back to the NCAA Tournament. After all they were dominant in NACC play during the fall, running their regular season conference winning streak to 22 matches.
The 2019-20 campaign was extra special for Verbauwhede, who got to spend this year playing with her sister, Ally. Ally Verbauwhede was a freshman on the team this year after her sister helped recruit her to Edgewood College. The sisters were doubles partners this season and posted a 6-2 mark in league matches.
“It is an experience not many others get to have,” Verbauwhede said of being teammates with Ally. “It’s really sad we won’t get to play together anymore, but we have a lot of memories from this season.”
All three have created countless memories over their tennis careers. They have won a combined 300 matches between singles and doubles play since arriving in Madison in 2016. They have gained 10 All-NACC selections (in both singles and doubles) between the three of them, and have posted a 35-2 record in conference regular season play as a team.
All three have said they will continue to play the sport they love as they look past graduation into the future. They all are set to graduate in May, but know tennis will continue to play an important role in their lives moving forward.
Carew is graduating with a degree in Education and a Concentration in Child Life, and hopes to attend graduate school at Edgewood College. Several eligibility questions will be answered later for seniors across the country, but if Carew is at Edgewood College and allowed to play next year, she would definitely take advantage of that opportunity.
Picard is graduating with a degree in Graphic Design and is currently participating in an internship with Createability Wisconsin. She has hopes of landing another potential internship with a bigger company before trying to land a full-time gig in the graphic design world.
Verbauwhede is figuring out her internship, which was set to start March 23, but also has been impacted by COVID-19. She is hoping she will be able to complete those hours to give her a Human Services concentration in addition to her Psychology degree.
All three were preparing to move on with the next phases in their lives and were getting ready to say goodbye to collegiate tennis. They just didn’t know they would have to say goodbye so quickly. Still, these Eagles are grateful for their time together and thankful for the friendships and relationships they’ve created.
“Cherish it, because it goes by so fast,” Carew said on advice she would give to her teammates. “With tennis, you’ve created a family with teammates who will be your friends forever. Sydney and Alicia have become my forever friends and I’m just thankful for everything Edgewood College has given me.”
The Edgewood College Women’s Tennis program is thankful for what Alyssa Carew, Alicia Picard, and Sydney Verbauwhede have given back: Wins, championships, and countless memories which will never be forgotten.