It’s hard to think of a worse way for the Brock women’s volleyball season to end. The U Sports women’s volleyball nationals were set to begin on Friday, March 13, but due to growing concerns over the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) it was announced on Thursday night that the tournament would be cancelled.
The Brock Badgers had spent a season doing the unthinkable; they earned a spot in the playoffs, found themselves playing for a medal in the semifinals and qualified for nationals for the first time in program history.
They were led by seniors Laura Condotta, who finished the season with 257 kills, Darby Taylor (179) and Grace Pyatt (108). They worked for every point, every win. Before this year, they had never won an OUA medal and they had never qualified for nationals. They were the perfect underdog story that never got the chance to unfold.
“It’s devastating,” said head coach Steve Delaney.
Delaney started with the program at the beginning of last season. He was able to take the team and turn it into a contender. The Badgers went from regularly missing the playoffs, to a team that finished first in the OUA West and challenged the defending champion team, the Toronto Varsity Blues for the Quigley Cup. He won’t know what else they might have achieved had they had the opportunity in Calgary.
“The girls worked so hard to achieve some pretty cool stuff this year and it’s hard to have nationals be cancelled but more than that, as we just got off the bus here, we’re not getting closure on that final moment especially as a senior,” said Delaney.
For many Badgers, this marks the end of their careers. Delaney understands that there was nothing else that could have been done.
“Obviously it’s nobody’s fault, obviously it’s just the landscape of what this pandemic brings,” he said.
The Badgers are just some of many student athletes having their seasons cut short because of the virus. It was a matter of health and safety — U Sports was just doing their part to ensure that their athletes and anyone else in attendance were safe. It was a decision made suddenly and out of necessity, but that doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking, especially for the seniors.
“You go into that match thinking, ‘hey this is my last match as a senior, this is the last set I’ll be playing in my university career,’ and they were kind of cheated out of that,” said Delaney.
The Badgers were supposed to play the University of Toronto Varsity Blues this past Friday. The Badgers went into the tournament ranked seventh, the Varsity Blues were ranked second. The Badgers may not have been favoured in the game, but they never even got the chance to try.
“There’s just no closure to our season. No going into the final match,” said Delaney.
For the first time in 51 years, no national championship will be awarded. The men’s tournament, which was also cancelled, will not award a champion for the first time in 54 years.
“Earning a berth in nationals for the first time in program history and never getting to step foot on the court is frustrating for everybody.”
The 2019-20 season will always have an asterisk next to it for the teams who made it to U Sports. There’s unfinished business all around.