In the transition to remote learning for the Spring Quarter, many things were lost: Dillo Day, a physical performance of the Waa-Mu show, and even commencement for Northwestern seniors. Among these, however, was the loss of spring sports such as baseball, softball and women's lacrosse. In this first Roundtable discussion, NBN Sports' writers and editors broke down what they miss the most during this quarantined, sports-free spring, and how teams might move forward after the break.
Quotes have been edited and condensed for clarity
The biggest spring sport I'm going to miss is softball, mostly because I've covered it for several years now, and even though Northwestern's team wasn't doing as hot as we had hoped they would … the Big Ten is a whole other story. They never reached Big Ten play because the season was cancelled right before they were about to play Michigan State as their home opener.
They did really good in Big Ten play last season, and so I think that they really could have almost run the table again in conference play. They have a phenomenal lineup. They had really good first-years, Sydney Supple and Angela Zedak. They have a winning coach in Kate Drohan. She's made the College World Series before. And so I think that all the pieces were there to gain momentum heading into the later months of spring.
I was just excited for lacrosse. I think that team would have gone deep. They were one of the best in the country, if not the best. And they were just getting started. Yeah, they were a little sketchy here and there. But I think, again like what you said, the Big Ten is something completely different. I think it would have elevated to a whole new level.
It's also my first year and I was also looking forward to watching the lacrosse team. I grew up playing lacrosse, so I love the sport. I think that they are a very, very good team. This season, they obviously had a slow start, which saw them lose three games. And those three losses were all to top 10 opponents. I think that they were just going through some growing pains, but they would have come out of it stronger.
For those of you who are new and hadn't yet really had the chance to experience Ryan Fieldhouse until now, I guess we’ll talk a little bit about what it was like to see a team play in what many commentators consider it to be like the finest sports building in the Midwest, if not in the country.
I saw a couple of lacrosse games in there. It was really, really fun just because it's a closed environment, so you hear the fans really loud. It’s very different from football or basketball where attendance tends to be on the lower side.
Shreyas, I know you covered a lot of tennis. So do you want to speak on that?
This was my third year covering the men's tennis team. They only had a combined two or three seniors in the two previous years. They were a really young team, really inexperienced, and it showed. They weren't able to consistently win big games, and you could clearly tell there was a gulf between them and the giants of the Big Ten.
At the beginning of the year, the team had a couple of losses — NC State, a really strong Duke team that they beat last year — but over the past five or six games they showed immense potential. They had their first top-10 win in at least three or four years when they beat Columbia at home.
The atmosphere of those games was, for me, unsurpassed in terms of any of the non-revenue sports that I've been to. Just the environment rivaled some of the men's basketball home games that I've been to where we've had packed stands, or some of the football games we've been to where like Notre Dame and Ohio State crowded the bleachers. Men's tennis was very similar to women's lacrosse and softball, in that there was a lot of potential left out on the field because of COVID.
Jordan, I know you saw the women's team a bit more than I did.
So they were kind of middling through the season. They would win a match or two with the opponent and then lose the next one. They were 5–6 at the time this season was cancelled. But yeah, I liked what you said about the intensity of tennis. I definitely saw that too.
It was a good season. And I'm kind of sad that it was cut short as they just started playing Big Ten games too. They only got to play Indiana and Ohio State. And they only got to play one ranked opponent, in which they did come pretty close: 4–2 against Georgia Tech, but it was much closer watching it then the score would say. I'm looking forward to watching them next year and seeing how they develop — they had a really young team — and seeing what happens with Julie Byrne and who can replace her. I think it could be Clarissa Hand.
The one big spring event in college athletics would be the NCAA tournament for basketball, which I would consider to be spring in that it takes place in March and part of April, and that's typically the marquee NCAA event really for men's and women's basketball. And of course, you know about our men. But the women on the other hand, were quite something to behold.
I think I can speak for everybody here, correct me if I'm wrong, but missing out on a chance to host a regional and watch that team play, how ever many more games they could, it would have been just unbelievable to see.
Yeah, you never see really a sport outside of football and men's basketball that united so many people as Northwestern women's basketball did this season. It was really kind of a spectacle almost, every single game as more and more fans were getting into it, and all this push to make the students go too. Thankfully they did for that senior game, that final home game, and it was a great send off against Illinois. But ultimately, it wasn't the send off that the team themselves wanted.
The only thing that really stings for me is, when I was writing the recap of their Michigan loss, I remember going into Joe McKeown’s press conference and he was saying, ‘Yeah, we lost, but give us 10 days. We'll be fine. I wouldn’t want to play us in 10 days.’
I think the team was so focused on getting into the tournament and trying to run through the tournament, that it's like you hit a brick wall, and it's where do you go from there? So I do think that this team is going to be hungry for redemption.
I think another thing that's really sad about being interrupted by COVID is that as this team possibly went deeper into tournament in March, was the surging popularity of women's basketball nationally.
This was going to be one of the only chances in Northwestern we’ll ever have had to be relevant, frankly, on a national stage. Our men's basketball team only made it once. Football, they're not going to make the playoffs. So this team had a really great chance to be in that national conversation. And for us, I think it would have been a really cool experience, if it happened.
So we’ve talked about the sports. I think personally, though, which people are kind of losing sight of, and I’m sure a lot of us do experience but maybe we don’t know how to put it into words, is just the experience of watching these spring games. I think spring is such a great time to be on campus in Evanston. I don’t think there’s anything better for me to do than to take my three-day weekend, sit on a Friday afternoon, watch some softball, and then talk to Coach usually after a win and have that really great sense of what it means to not only be a sports journalist but also a Wildcat.
Without a doubt. It was going to be my first spring back in Chicago in I think five years, and it never stops getting there. That first warm day when you’re out on the bleachers and seeing games, and just knowing that spring is here, there’s nothing like it. When you lose a season like that, whether it’s baseball, softball or lacrosse, and you’re just not out there, it has an effect. I think a lot of people are missing it right now.
As someone from California, you make it through the winter for spring in Evanston. It’s one of those things where, the first day you go outside and it’s above 50 degrees, is cause for celebration.