Column from Scrimmage Play’s Bart Isley:
Just about everyone involved understands that what’s happening right now in America and throughout the world is much, much bigger than wins and losses. It’s about life and death and the steps we’re taking as a society are intended to save lives and who gets to complete in track or soccer or tennis or softball or lacrosse or baseball this spring pales in comparison to that societal mission.
As one local coach also pointed out in a message to his team Monday, past generations were called to much bigger sacrifices around the time they turned 18 in a multitude of wars throughout history.
While perspective is definitely important, it still surely hurts for a lot of seniors who are currently slated to miss out on so many formative and special experiences, from prom to graduation to senior night in the wake of Governor Ralph Northam closing schools through the end of this academic year Monday as part of his state-wide response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The VHSL shortly thereafter followed suit, announcing spring sports’ cancellation while also calling a meeting of a crisis management team Tuesday to figure out what to do going forward.
The seniors’ loss of a final campaign isn’t a sacrifice of the highest order like generations before them, but it matters. It matters because they’ve put in a lot of work to get to this spot. Some of them have battled back from an injury and now won’t get a chance to reap those rewards. Or they’ve just been biding their time, waiting for a chance to break into the lineup. Or they’d put in the type of training and work that leads to breakout senior campaigns where everything clicks.
In fact, some teams have one senior who fits all three of those descriptions. For defending Class 3 state champions Western Albemarle boys soccer, it’s William “Squid” O’Shea who was regularly trying to find minutes behind Carter Spillman and Noah Adderly at forward last year. This season he’d have gotten a chance to play a huge role for the Warriors. The Warriors’ Owen Shaffer was injured a year ago with a concussion just before the Warriors’ thrilling playoff run shortly after he’d broken into the lineup as a starter. This year he’d have gotten a chance to make a big impact as a healthy contributor. Then there’s Joey Paulson, a breakout star in the playoffs who was poised to continue Western’s trend of big-time impact seniors on offense in the line of Forest White in 2014 and Carter Spillman last year.
This is a class with some elite, all-time great student athletes in it too. Players who were poised to break school records or put a cherry on top of already incredible careers. Like Albemarle girls soccer’s Savannah Alexander, who’s bound for VCU next year, an incredible midfielder who was set to lead the Patriots’ state title defense. Or Fluvanna baseball’s Andrew and Kevin Ward, the hard-hitting, hard-throwing twins that helped take the Flucos’ baseball program to new heights last year during that historic state title run. Or Monticello girls lacrosse’s Caleigh Smith, one of the program’s most productive scorers who’d helped lead the Mustangs to the state quarterfinals last year. Or Western Albemarle boys tennis’ Alex Ix, who has known nothing but state championship finishes to seasons as a top contributor for the Warriors who’ve won three straight team state tennis titles and a potential fourth-straight would’ve put Ix in even more rarefied air.
That’s just a few from the top of a pretty long list of players we’ve been covering the last three spring seasons.
We’re working out ways to tell as many of these stories as we can over the coming weeks, to help in our own way to recognize what now seems poised to be the lost class of Spring 2020. They deserve that recognition, they deserve that time in the spotlight. And all of us, collectively, have a lot of time now to make sure that in some way they aren’t lost.