It’s been nearly one year since the world was changed due to COVID-19 and everyone has been impacted, from losing loved ones to school being moved online.
Just like many across the globe, student-athletes have been forced to adapt over the past 11 months.
In March of 2020, Virginia Tech’s softball team was enjoying a historic start to its season. The Hokies, fresh off their first NCAA Tournament appearance in four years, started 21-4 and were enjoying an eight-game winning streak. With wins over three ranked teams, it seemed the Hokies were poised for their best season since Angela Tincher led Tech to the Women’s College World Series in 2008.
That all changed on March 12, 2020. Like all other teams, Virginia Tech didn’t get to finish its season.
“Our season being cancelled was a very hard pill to swallow,” senior designated hitter Grace Chavez said.
Following a series against Virginia on March 8, Chavez noted that the team thought they were getting a spring break, something that spring student-athletes don’t get to experience. They had no idea that it would be 11 months later before they would walk in-between the chalk.
The ensuing weeks that turned into April were a time of unknown for all. The facilities were closed to athletes at Virginia Tech, which made this even tougher on senior outfielder Cana Davis, who had to rehab from an ACL tear.
“It was extremely difficult,” Davis said. “It stunk to not have my teammates and coaches there to see the obstacles I was tackling. Nobody was there to see my first steps, or me jogging.”
When the season ended, it was easy for those that lived on the east coast to return home and reunite with family. For Chavez, it was three months before she was able to return to her home state of Nevada as an early birthday present.
“During that time, it made me realize just how much Blacksburg has truly become my home over the last three years,” Chavez said.
By the time the fall semester came around for college students, significant changes were made. The majority of classes were held online or over Zoom. While dealing with the new academic life, many student-athletes had to figure out how to academically handle an extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA. For Chavez, she’ll be returning to Virginia Tech for a fifth year.
“I don’t know whether I am going to either do [graduate] school or just take the extra year to graduate,” Chavez said.
Through all the uncertainty that the pandemic has brought, the Hokies will get to play softball in the spring. However, it’s taken a lot of sacrifice to get to this point.
From being tested for COVID-19 three times a week during the season to masks constantly being worn and the team forming a bubble, this will be a season unlike any other.
“We aren’t allowed to get dinner with our parents on the road anymore and that really stinks,” Davis said.
Traveling on the road will certainly be different. Only essential personnel can travel with the team and according to Chavez, the Hokies will only travel 18 players compared to the usual 26. Even the bus rides won’t be the same.
“We have to keep our [face covering] on the entire time and are only allowed to pull it down for a few seconds to drink some water,” Davis said.
This weekend, for the first time in 339 days, Virginia Tech softball will finally be back on the diamond. The Hokies open their season at Kennesaw State for a three-game series in Georgia.
“[COVID-19] made me focus more on the mechanical side of my swing,” Chavez said. “I tried my best to make sure that my swing was working in all aspects.”
While last season was cut short, the goal still remains the same. The Hokies want to make a run at the Women’s College World Series.
“The team we had last season was great and we would have gone far, but I feel that this team is even stronger,” Chavez said. “I truly believe that we have a chance at going to Oklahoma City.”