The NCAA voted to give all fall sport student athletes another year of eligibility, as seasons were postponed or canceled. However, this luxury was not afforded to students competing in club sports.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced clubs to follow new guidelines for the fall quarter. Clubs have restrictions on events, whether on or off-campus, and are unable to reserve faculty spaces. All travel for clubs has also been suspended until June 30, 2021.
“No one really knew what was happening and then everything just kept getting postponed,” club volleyball team member Sarah Ainley said.
Ainley and the rest of her team were on track to compete in nationals last season under the leadership of new head coach Kate Yarbrough.
“It was really disheartening, because it was a really strong season. We had gotten a new coach and we love her,” Ainley said. “Going from thinking that this is going to be the best season and that we have a chance at winning nationals, to our season being cancelled, it was challenging.”
Ainley added that it was especially difficult for the team’s seniors, because what would have been their last chance to compete in nationals got canceled.
Men’s club lacrosse member Christian Akeroyd described the possibility of not playing another season as a “bittersweet feeling.”
During the 2019-2020 season, Men’s Lacrosse overtook longtime rivals UC Berkeley to earn a No. 1 spot in their division and were ready to make a run for the national championship.
“We were planning to host our game in Spanos Stadium against the UCSB Gauchos when we received news from club sports and from the CSU Chancellor that all non-essential travel was being banned,” Akeroyd said.
Akeroyd said the team is hopeful for the Winter quarter, and they stay in touch with each other through weekly Zoom meetings. He said that if club sports cannot return this year, he finished his career on a high with a No. 1 ranking and a last-minute victory over the team’s rivals in his final game.
“I know that if this is my last year, the future of the program is bright,” Akeroyd said.
Last spring, Cal Poly’s roller hockey club competed in a regional tournament in Corona, CA when COVID-19 cases were first reported on the West Coast. Roller hockey club president Joe Blakewell reflected on the experience.
“We got home from the tournament that weekend and we were getting ready to book flights to nationals, and then it became apparent that there was going to be some shutdowns,” Blakewell said.
After losing to Chico State in one of their final league appearances, the team had a chance for redemption when they met again in regional finals. Their last game before the pandemic: a 4-3 victory over Chico State in the regional championship.
Blakewell said the team felt they had more to fight for, and they were disappointed they would not get the chance to compete for their ultimate goal of a national championship.
“For us, nationals isn’t an every-year thing, so it’s always exciting when we get to go and we thought this year we had a really good chance of winning too,” Blakewell said. “That was a bummer because [our seniors] graduated, and we didn’t get to have that experience with them.”
Blakewell added that the organization hopes they can resume in-person gatherings in the winter, depending on state and school regulation.