Players and fans of the New Paltz men’s lacrosse team counted down to Feb. 28, 2020 for months on end. When the anticipated day finally came, it meant the start of something new. For the first time in history, SUNY New Paltz would have a men’s lacrosse team.
The inaugural season, as it was called, was built on teamwork to build the framework for a, hopefully, long-standing program. This was never going to be easy, but the team was determined to come out of the gates strong and prove their worth in the SUNYAC program.
After earning an awe-inspiring win on Feb. 28, it seemed the rest of the season would follow suit exactly as planned. But it didn’t.
In light of the developing COVID-19 pandemic, NCAA sports shut down for the rest of the semester. As devastating as the cancelations were for every spring sport athlete, for the men’s lacrosse team, it was a dream crusher. As they were only four games in, the team was just getting used to playing with each other and putting their names out there. Then, just like that, their inaugural season was over.
The team was sent home along with all other New Paltz students in a wave of confusion, disappointment and sadness. They were instructed by their coach to stay inside for their own safety, with only the film of their last game to remind them of what they had accomplished.
First-year midfielder Mason Pontrelli explained that the team had to meet in the Athletic Wellness Center with their coaches to hear the official announcement.
“Obviously [as] a new team, we were all super bummed out even though we have three more years left together,” Pontrelli said. “[Coach] told us that he was heartbroken, but we all have a bright future together and that he can’t wait for next season.”
Next year, the lacrosse team is expecting another sizable group of first-years to join the roster. Luckily, Pontrelli explained, a lot of recruits did overnight trips both semesters, so the team is already familiar with the new commits.
“Guiding the new kids will be a challenge for sure, but I’m positive that just like my freshman class, they will adapt to the new drills and system rather quickly,” Pontrelli said.
“Only playing four games with a group of guys I already called family certainly isn’t the amount of games we all wanted to play. Our team chemistry was amazing, all the guys liked each other on the team and we played really well together for being a first-year program,” he continued.
But how do the seniors feel? Unlike other graduating student athletes, the fourth-year students on the men’s lacrosse team don’t have any other season to look back on or remember. The four games played were all they had.
Fourth-year faceoff/midfielder Jake Malloy described his initial feelings surrounding the news to be “a little bit of a bummer.”
“Of course being a senior, the ship has now sailed and my college lacrosse time is over,” Malloy said. “At least for the younger guys they can take this time off to build on their strengths and weaknesses and continue to ball out the next few seasons.”
Still, Malloy has been able to find a silver lining in the otherwise gloomy news.
“Instead of getting down about my senior season being cut short only four games in, I am extremely grateful and happy to have gotten the chance to play,” Malloy said.
For all fourth-year athletes in the same situation, it raises the question of whether NCAA should offer athletes an extra year of eligibility to make up for the season they lost. In Malloy’s opinion, they should — however, if they did, he would have to base his decision to return on academics, and whether or not it would make sense to extend his college career an entire academic year.
“Either way, I have greatly enjoyed my time at New Paltz both athletically and socially,” he said.