The Season No One Expected

After a year without competition, the College announced that athletes can return to the field for the remainder of the semester. Baseball, softball, men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s track and field, and men’s and women’s tennis teams can schedule up to five dates of competition, with most of the games taking place at Oberlin. 

Associate Vice President for Athletics Advancement and Delta Lodge Director of Athletics & Physical Education Natalie Winkelfoos says that she is delighted for the student-athletes who are getting the end of their spring season back. 

“Our return to competition this spring is an absolute gift and we are thrilled for our student-athletes, especially our seniors,” Winkelfoos said in an interview with GoYeo.” This opportunity doesn’t happen without the advocacy of President Ambar and the support from our Trustees — we are grateful. As we pursue the joy and camaraderie that comes with our game days this spring, we will be relentless in our efforts to keep the health and safety of our entire campus community the priority.”

According to COVID-19 Campus Health Coordinator Katie Gravens, decreasing caseloads alongside increasing vaccinations drove this decision. 

“The College took into consideration decreasing rates of infection at the local, state and national level, increasing supply of vaccines, low rate of infection on Oberlin’s campus, and the recommendations of the NCAA,” she wrote in an email to the Review

Gravens also added that the College consulted with the Lorain County health department regarding a phased reopening and has developed strict protocols for athletic competition. These measures include increased testing for student-athletes and coaches in compliance with NCAA’s recommended guidelines. All participants are required to wear masks during competition, and the College will test game officials upon their arrival to campus, according to GoYeo. 

“Furthermore, these contests will solely take place against institutions who share Oberlin’s vigilance in COVID-19 mitigation measures on their respective campuses,” GoYeo reported. 

The College has stated that fans, parents, friends, and spectators of any kind are not permitted to attend competitions. Events will be livestreamed whenever possible.

College fourth-year and softball player Gianna Volonte says that she is thrilled that she gets to play this spring. 

“I’m feeling very excited that I have one more chance to play, as I think all the seniors are feeling,” she wrote in an email to the Review.  

Following this announcement, the softball team has amped up its practice schedule. Volonte says that her team has spent the last couple of months preparing for the next season and that she is confident that they are all game-ready. 

“The only thing that we have changed about practice is the amount of times we were practicing,” Head Softball Coach Sara Schoenhoft wrote in an email to the Review. “From the beginning, we had tried to keep the same intensity level that we would have had if it were a normal season. But we were only practicing as a team 3 times a week and then doing small group work and lifting the other 2 days. Now that we are getting ready to compete, we are practicing as a team 5-6 days a week because there is a lot of situational offense and defense to go over and practice to get ready for competition.”

The overall goal for the Oberlin Softball team is simple this year: to have fun. 

“Everyone wants to enjoy the extra games that we didn’t think we would get, and make up for the time we lost last year,” Volonte wrote. “Of course everyone has individual goals, but as a team we want to enjoy the few games that we have together.”

For many student-athletes, this news was entirely unexpected after a full year without competition. 

“I think [the softball team members] were a little shocked. It took a few days to process that we were going to actually get to compete again and then the joy, excitement, and happiness set in!” Schoenhoft wrote. “For our seniors, they haven’t competed since they were sophomores and I think they had finally come to peace with the fact that their careers were essentially over. For them to be able to put on the jerseys one more time means so much to them and I think they are just so excited!” 

Volonte says she spent months processing the disappointing end to her college athletic career, but that she had come to terms with it. The return of competition came as a wonderful surprise. 

“I am incredibly grateful to be able to have a few more games to play with the people I love,” she wrote.