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College lacrosse players saddened by NCAA decision, but it was the right call | COMMENTARY

Princeton had gone unbeaten in five games. The Tigers had climbed to No. 3 in the Inside Lacrosse Media Poll and, led by attackman Michael Sowers, had outscored opponents, 90-54.

But after a meeting with coach Matt Madalon on Thursday , the Tigers emotions ran the full gamut after the announcement that the NCAA had canceled the remainder of the spring sports season because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

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There was surprise, apprehension, anger and then appreciation. There will be a huge void this weekend in Baltimore because there will be no lacrosse played in one of the sports meccas.

Officials at most of the local colleges and universities kept players and team officials away from the media after the announcement because of unwanted publicity. That’s a big mistake in society because we already shelter our kids too much.

A lot of the athletes understand the depth of the problems with the evolving virus and the health threats associated with it.

“Obviously, there were a lot of emotions and still are,” said Arman Medghalchi, a starting defenseman for Princeton and a graduate of McDonogh. “But the decision was made for the right reason so you can’t be mad. Obviously, the decision was made in the best interest of everyone so you have to respect that and put it in perspective.”

It is hard. Athletic directors and coaches work hand and hand all year putting schedules together and recruiting top players. Their jobs eventually depend on wins and losses.

Teams such as Princeton and No. 4 North Carolina (6-0) have been average in recent years but appeared to be onto something special in 2020.

Now, it’s gone.

And then there is the plight of seniors. They came to practice Thursday only to find out their seasons had been cut short and they probably won’t have any more eligibility. But they know there is a difference between athletics, and life and death.

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“It was devastating at first,” Medghalchi, a senior, said. “It was tough watching the coach and athletic director sit us down because they had put as much into it as us. But you know every time you step on the field you take a risk and it could be the last time. This might not be a normal reason for the season to end but it is inevitable. Nothing last forever.”

Nolan Fox is a senior long-pole midfielder at Drexel. The Dragons were 3-3 but Fox thought they were at the turning point in their season, especially with a roster with 12 seniors.

In the weeks before the announcement he had paid attention to the movement of the coronavirus but didn’t anticipate it having a great impact on him or his school. Fox is in his fifth year after gaining another season of eligibility because of an injury.

“This is supposed to be the year for our team; we have a lot of good guys and there has been a lot of build up until this point,” Fox said. “We were just getting to that point of conference play; the tournament and we were getting a self-identity.”

“All of this has been a culmination of a lot of work,” he said. “It still hasn’t all set in yet. As this was unfolding, I didn’t think it was real, that this was possible.”

Fox had first heard about the virus when it first came out of China and later spread to Italy. Medghalchi kept track through the internet but they both were typical college students immersed into the lacrosse season.

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“I never actually thought it would get to this point here in the U.S where schools would take these types of measures,” Fox said. “I thought it would stay in the background, not impact us much. But now, here we are.”

Since hearing the announcements Thursday, both Fox and Medghalchi have allowed their minds to drift back to when they first played lacrosse. To play on the Division I level requires a lot of sacrifice.

High school parents pay thousands of dollars a year in equipment, hotels and meals. Competition in summer leagues is tough with individuals playing several games a day in temperatures above 95 degrees.

Unless the NCAA grants another year of eligibility most seniors played their last games last weekend.

“Right now, this is like a bad dream,” Fox said.

A healing process is required.

“It’s been tough, definitely disappointing and I am processing this one step at a time,” said Towson senior midfielder Grant Maloof, from South River High. “I was angry, disappointed because you never really expect to go into a season and have it canceled in the middle part of the season. Overall, though, it was a good decision, a smart one. We’re trying to protect everyone and that is why you have to shut down everything.”

Medghalchi agreed.

“Only a couple of days ago you started hearing more and more because it began to escalate,” Medghalchi said. “Then you started hearing about Harvard sending kids home and then you knew this was a possibility. But you see it going on around the country.

“At Princeton, it’s not about the outcome, win or lose, it’s about the process,” he said. “I am thankful for the 17 years I had playing this sport; I love it, it was a hell of a process. I have had a lot of great time with my teammates, on the practice field and in the locker room. I am going to miss my teammates and leaving here will be tough, but I can’t complain about a decision that was made in the best interest of everyone.”

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