Despite an NCAA Committee ruling on Monday afternoon that spring sport athletes will receive an extra year of eligibility due to a lost season under COVID-19 scares, there is still a rightfully sentimental feeling surrounding senior players who had their swan songs ripped out from under their feet.
Graduating college is a monumental step in life. For most athletes, this means the end of a career and an official shift into the working world. Outside of a few stellar players with futures ahead of him or her in the professional sphere or overseas, a last pitch will be thrown or a last shot will be taken in college.
The question that arises now for student-athletes is whether or not the extra year of eligibility will be taken. This, naturally, means staying in college for an unexpected extra year, which may disrupt plans despite being given one more chance at a goodbye.
For Seton Hall softball, this decision is clearly present, as the team’s crux on the mound and a few key contributors in the field were set to take part in their final seasons this spring. The class was set to have five members – Hailey Arteaga, Darby Pandolfo, Katherine Matthys, Reganne Camp and Mo Sobel.
Over the course of four years at Seton Hall, each of the five seniors left their marks on the program. Coming into a team that was 20-34 in the season prior to their arrival, the group of five helped transform the Pirates into a near consistent .500 team over four years with a few hiccups along the road.
Perhaps no player was more important to this turnaround than Camp. After playing in 25 games, including 16 starts, in her first year, Camp worked her way up to an All-Big East Second Team selection in 2019. That year, she solidified herself as the Pirates’ ace and one of the conference’s best pitchers, striking out 116 batters in 123 innings and recording 10 victories in the process.
If Camp’s track of improvement continued, a First Team All-Big East honor and many more awards were not out of the question for the Bloomington, Illinois, native.
Alongside Camp on the mound for Seton Hall was Sobel, who equally proved to be a crucial cog when the Pirates were at their best. After playing in just three games her freshman year, Sobel had a combined 30 appearances the next two seasons. She saw time both starting and in relief, providing a dual-asset to Paige Smith’s staff.
In the field, Arteaga made her presence known. As a First Team All-Big East selection last season, she was one of the outright best players in the conference. The dynamic outfielder hit over .400 with six home runs in over 45 games of action.
Arteaga also saw action in all 54 games her sophomore season and 46 as a freshman. Between outfield dancing and game-changing plays in the field and box, Arteaga was one of the best Seton Hall softball players in recent memory and was on track to potentially set records in 2020.
Pandolfo, a utility player, was also another hard-hitting member in the core of Seton Hall’s lineup over her time at the university. With 11 career home runs, Pandolfo was a notable presence whenever she stepped into the box. Like Camp, she was a second team All-Big East last season.
Matthys also solidified herself for Smith during the campaign. After seeing only 15 games and nothing but two RBIs in the seasons prior, Matthys finished 2019 with 31 starts behind the plate. Hitting .257 and a dynamic personality in the dugout, Matthys became one of the Pirates’ main contributors.
Although it remains to be seen what the five elect to do with an extra year of eligibility, one thing for certain is that the group was determined to keep a skyward progression into the spring season and achieve new heights – perhaps even a postseason berth. Last season, the team missed out on a Big East berth by .003.
If this is the end of the run for these seniors, then perhaps no more than any other sport will this be a “what if?” scenario.
Kevin Kopf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @KevinKopfHWH.