With classes online and seasons canceled, spring sports teams have looked to alternative measures to celebrate their graduating seniors. While these remote Senior Nights are unconventional, their unabashed sentiment remains.
In March, the Ivy League canceled the remainder of all spring sports events due to the coronavirus pandemic. Canceled seasons meant canceled Senior Nights, and the spring sports teams missed out on the opportunity to honor the players who had dedicated four years to their respective teams.
An abrupt end to their season left the seniors of Penn women’s lacrosse devastated. Coach Karin Corbett was similarly disappointed about the loss of the season. The Quakers had been preparing to travel to play Duke when Corbett announced that they would not be able to complete their season.
“They just were a class that had really impacted the program and a tremendous leadership group. They had really embraced the standards, set the standards, and it was going to be one of our strongest years in recent history,” Corbett said. “It was really sad to have it end so quickly and abruptly and not be able to see what was going to come to fruition that year.”
“A couple days after we found out the season was over, we went to dinner with our coaches downtown,” senior Erin Barry said. “Since we’re always running from practice to class, and then trying to get dinner with them on campus, it was nice getting to go downtown into Center City, going to a new restaurant with everyone.”
On April 26, Penn women’s lacrosse would have played its last game of the regular season at home against Harvard. It also would have been Senior Night. Leading up to what would have been a day to honor the seniors, the underclassmen came up with a plan to recreate its annual celebration.
“We tried to mimic what a normal Senior Day is,” junior Zoe Belodeau said. “Our grade is really close to their grade, so we’ve been thinking about doing Senior Day for them forever. We were really looking forward to it."
Typically, the underclassmen on the team are each assigned a senior, and groups of athletes work together to decorate their respective senior’s locker. They design posters and give them gifts.
This year, groups of underclassmen made posters and sent them to the seniors through the mail. With the help of each senior’s parents, the Quakers were able to prepare a surprise for the Class of 2020 on Sunday morning.
Barry, who lives on Long Island, received a surprise visit from some of her teammates who live near her. Sophomores Katie Bellucci, Krissy Kowalski, and Taylyn Stadler and junior Liv Smith stopped by her house to drop off some treats for her. Sophomore Maggie Beresheim had also helped celebrate Barry, but wasn't able to tag along.
“First, my dad woke me up out of bed at 9 a.m.,” Barry said. “Luckily, four or five girls are from Long Island. So they were able to come to my house, and they dropped off posters and candy and baked me cookies and cake.”
On top of this, Corbett scheduled a fake compliance meeting over Zoom, where the whole team gathered to commemorate the seniors.
“I logged on and I kind of had a feeling it wasn’t going to be a compliance meeting,” Barry said. “So I was joking around with the other seniors like, ‘Hey Karin, where’s Rachel Hiller? Is she coming?’ [And then I] found out it was a joke and it was for us seniors to celebrate us.”
Each junior shared a word she felt best described what the senior class represented to the team. Family and loyalty were two of them. They also shared a 20-minute-long video the team had made for the graduating class.
Each year, women’s lacrosse hosts a banquet in October where the players, coaches, and their families look back on the past season. If the situation with the pandemic permits, the underclassmen hope to tailor this year’s celebration towards the senior class.
“[We] want to see the parents. The parents have been so invested and have been great, and we honor them [at the] night about the graduated seniors,” Corbett said.
Penn Athletics Communications is doing its part to celebrate the Class of 2020 via social media. The Penn baseball and softball twitters honored the seniors with a post dedicated to each of them, thanking them for their commitment and highlighting their careers.
“Our Senior Day would have been last weekend, so they put out a bunch of tweets and said some really nice things about all the seniors, pretty much what they would have done on the field, but on Twitter,” senior Christian Scafidi said. “So that kind of hit home a little bit realizing that I won't get to celebrate this on the field with my team, but it was a nice way for them to do that.”
The NCAA has extended the playing eligibility of spring sports athletes, granting them an extra year to compete, but Ivy League athletes may not benefit from this. The Ivy League does not allow graduate-level students to play on undergraduate teams.
Though some seniors will continue to compete elsewhere, for many players this was their last season at Penn.