Lindenwood sports cancelled due to COVID-19 with 2 NCAA teams headed to national championships

Climbing+up+the+rankings+in+a+hurry%2C+Lindenwood+baseball+got+off+to+a+15-1+start+in+2020%2C+winning+14+consecutive+games+up+until+this+point.

James Tananan Kamnuedkhun

Climbing up the rankings in a hurry, Lindenwood baseball got off to a 15-1 start in 2020, winning 14 consecutive games up until this point.

Dominic Hoscher, Sports Editor

It has been a difficult few days in the world of sports, as both professional and college athletics have come to a halt due to COVID-19.

For Lindenwood, each NCAA winter or spring sport has seen its season come to an abrupt and devastating end due to events that they could not control.  The coronavirus has also led to the cancellation of several Lindenwood student life sports. Championships were set to be played, conference games were beginning to heat up, and now all of it is cancelled.

After the National Collegiate Athletic Association cancelled its season on Thursday, March 12, Lindenwood’s vice president for Intercollegiate Athletics, Brad Wachler, tweeted, “Officially the worst day of my professional career. Never thought it would ever come to this. Heartbroken for the student-athletes (especially the seniors) who do not have the opportunity to compete. Thank you for all that you have given to @LU_Lions.”

For winter sports teams, some of their seasons started many months ago, and the NCAA cancellation left them hanging right before the championship tournament. Women’s basketball began playing exhibition games in late October, and have had games almost weekly ever since. On Friday, the team was scheduled to compete in its third consecutive NCAA tournament.

On Thursday, however, as the team arrived at its hotel in Springfield, Missouri, athletes learned that the championship was cancelled before they got the opportunity to compete.

Like women’s basketball, No. 7 men’s wrestling had been competing since October. The team was also set to compete in its NCAA Championship tournament in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, but the buses were forced to turn around when the competition was called off on Thursday. 

As a team, men’s wrestling finished 9-4 overall on the season and 5-1 in conference play. At the Super Regional on March 1, Lindenwood placed third and sent six wrestlers to Nationals.

While this may be the end of the 2020 season for most teams, there is an effort being made to give these student-athletes a chance to gain another year of eligibility. 

Online, an Instagram page called “redshirtcoronayear,” currently with 40,000 followers, was made to try and grant spring athletes a chance to play another year after losing their 2020 season. This effort was boosted by the NCAA awarding Division I athletes eligibility relief on Friday. There is still no answer as to whether or not this will be the case for Division II as well.

The pandemic has affected Student Life Sports as well. In an email sent out to students Friday, Wachler indicated all sports will stop practices and competition per the Great Lakes Valley Conference’s decision.

“This suspension will be re-evaluated by the GLVC and its member schools on April 6, 2020, to determine if we resume play or cancel outright for the remainder of the spring.  Regardless of your sport’s conference affiliation, this suspension applies to ALL NCAA and SLS sports programs,” the email read.

On Thursday afternoon, the American Collegiate Hockey Association cancelled the men’s hockey national championship, ending the season for No. 3 Lindenwood. The tournament was scheduled to start on March 19, as the Lions were coming off a first-round bye. Men’s hockey had earned its way to the championship after winning its third-straight conference tournament last weekend.  

A team with seven seniors and two graduate students, this was the end of the road for multiple players. That includes senior Nick Greene, who has played his final game with a Lindenwood uniform on. But he and his teammates are keeping their heads held up high during all of this, mainly due to the support from others in the locker room.

“We battled the whole year, and to have the guys there for you when you need them, it was really cool,” Greene said. “No one has been feeling too down, mainly due to us having many good guys on the team that are picking each other up.”

For women’s gymnastics, up next was senior night, which was set to take place on Friday night against Illinois State. Following this, Lindenwood had its conference championship next week, with the NCAA tournament to follow.

I didn’t want my senior year to end this way, but there is no way around it.”

— Blake Beckmann, Lindenwood baseball

Spring sports were in the middle of their seasons when the news came out on Thursday. Some had started playing games since January, others soon after that. Many of these teams were putting together special seasons, being ranked nationally with heavy goals being set for the end of the season.

One of those teams was No. 5 baseball, who was soaring to start the year. Climbing up the rankings in a hurry, Lindenwood got off to a 15-1 start in 2020, winning 14 consecutive games up until this point. Many seniors, such as Blake Beckmann, were leading the way in what was on pace to be one of the strongest years in program history.

“I was upset, emotional, and confused. I felt like everything I worked so hard for just came to an end,” Beckmann said. “The Lions were hot, and after the past four years of being at Lindenwood, this is the most confident I’ve been that we were going to make it to the World Series. I didn’t want my senior year to end this way, but there is no way around it.”

Also off to a dominant start in 2020 were the Lindenwood lacrosse teams. The men’s team was ranked 10th in the nation with a perfect 5-0 record, while the women’s team was fifth in the country at 9-1. Between the two teams, there were a total of 20 players who were in their final season at Lindenwood. Eight for the men, 12 on the women’s side.

At the end of the semester, Lindenwood was scheduled to host the Spring Sports Festival, a competition involving women’s lacrosse, golf, and tennis for their national championships. Now, of course, with the ending of the NCAA seasons, these events are now off due to COVID-19.

Other spring sports who have now finished their seasons include men’s volleyball, outdoor track and field and softball. Men’s volleyball ended with a record of 11-8, while softball went a strong 11-4 in 2020.

Three of the four seniors on the men’s volleyball team were in Panama City Beach, Florida for Spring Break and were having lunch one day when the news came out. Senior Charley Hlavin was one of the players there and said that him and the others were in “disbelief” when they learned of the season concluding. 

“It’s just been so many emotions at once,” Hlavin said. “It’s definitely hard not getting the opportunity to have a senior night. More than anything though, it just doesn’t feel real.”

In their last game, men’s volleyball got the chance to play at the University of Southern California, where each of the seniors all got on the court at the same time. Hlavin believes this was the first time in his career that they have all played together.

With the year now over for the team, the senior feels as if they’re missing out on the whole story with the final part of it being removed.

“Honestly, you expect a season to end by either winning it all, or turning the page after the final loss,” Hlavin said. “It feels like instead of turning the final page and calling it a career, the whole end of the book was just ripped out.”

Some of the SLS sports affected were cheer and dance, whose seasons consist of a year-long preparation for Nationals in Daytona, Florida. The men’s and women’s bowling team were on their way to the Intercollegiate Team Sectionals in Dallas, Texas, on Thursday, when the news broke that the United States Bowling Congress cancelled the tournament due to COVID-19 concerns.

The shotgun team had a practice trip for nationals scheduled from March 10-14 in Texas to prepare for the Collegiate Clay Target National Championships in April, which is now postponed, according to the Lindenwood Athletics website. Women’s rugby also had its last practice this week, after the USA Rugby announced all spring championships were cancelled. The women’s water polo season has been cancelled as well.

News Editor Merlina San Nicolás contributed to this story.