The COVID-19 pandemic has without a doubt rocked the entire Muhlenberg community and the world at large. All of Muhlenberg’s spring student-athletes have been forced to sit on the sidelines, left to imagine what their respective seasons could have brought. This may have been the year the Mules brought home several Centennial Conference titles. However, they must endure the pain of not knowing, and for Mulenberg’s senior athletes, this agony is the greatest. Since the news of Muhlenberg’s sports cancellations officially broke on Mar. 19, though, the student-athletes and athletic department as a whole remain active and in good spirits.

 In a mid-March announcement, Executive Director of the Centennial Conference Portia Hoeg stated, “Initially we were optimistic we could return to competition in a few weeks; however, the rapid growth and developing facts surrounding this pandemic now requires our league to do our part in protecting the health and well-being of our constituents. This decision was not reached lightly, but ultimately this is what must be done.”

Truly unprecedented in the world of athletics, let alone Muhlenberg athletics, the realness of this announcement sent waves throughout the campus. Ripping away perhaps the most crucial aspect of social life from the Muhlenberg community, no one has been more impacted than the dedicated student-athletes themselves as well as the members of the athletic department, who work tirelessly to ensure their success. 

While ultimately unsurprising as conditions worsened around the country, the news still hurt. Gabriella Crivelli ‘20 of women’s lacrosse expressed this sentiment, saying, “I was not entirely surprised by the decision, but that did not mean that it was easy to deal with. There were definitely tears shed.” 

As a senior, this reaction was most certainly warranted. As Crivelli progressed through her athletic career, this was definitely not the way she envisioned it potentially ending. 

Sharing in Crivelli’s feelings is fellow lacrosse player Bobby McLoughlin ‘20. For him, too, the decision was expected, but when it finally came to life, he was in utter shock. 

“While I wasn’t surprised that the conference cancelled our season, seeing the official post sent out by the conference was all too real, and it was tough to wrap my mind around. It all happened so quickly, making it confusing and honestly more disappointing,” he explained.

Though Sarah Raab ‘22 of Muhlenberg softball may not be a senior, the news is still disappointing. Following the group’s spring break trip to South Carolina, Raab was extremely excited to continue the season. “It’s been hard on us for sure. We were really looking forward to this season as we only graduated three [people last year] on the softball team and we have a new coach. We felt really good coming back from Myrtle Beach, ready for the Centennial Conference,” she said. 

As every student-athlete suffers at the hands of the coronavirus, few feel for them as much as Muhlenberg Athletic Director Lynn Tubman.

As it was all unfolding, minute-by-minute, it was Tubman and her team’s responsibility to “do our best to be understanding and compassionate, provide up to date communication on what was happening, and to listen to concerns and provide feedback,” Tubman explained. 

On Mar. 12, the athletics department convened to discuss meeting with their teams prior to leaving, and it was on that final Mar. 19 date that Tubman had announced that the remainder of the spring seasons were to be cancelled. 

“My initial reaction was a combination of shock and disbelief.  I had never seen anything like [this] in my lifetime. I was truly sad for our student athletes,” Tubman said. 

“As a former student athlete and coach, and now as a college administrator and parent, my heart ached for the students who lost the opportunity to compete in the NCAA wrestling championships, as well as for all our spring sport student athletes, especially our seniors, whose seasons abruptly ended with little time to process what was happening before leaving campus,” she continued.

Still, in those few days before leaving campus, time was found to pay tribute to the senior class, who are not going to receive the traditional senior send off.

“It was nice that, for our last game before the season got cancelled, after we found out we were suspended indefinitely, our coaches started all the seniors for what ended up being our last game,” said McLoughlin.

On the women’s side, Crivelli reminisced, saying, “The day I left to return home, the team held a ‘Senior Day’ for the nine seniors. It wasn’t the same as a normal Senior Day, but it was nice of them to think of us. They decorated the locker room and gave us flowers, which was so sweet of them.”

For Raab and the Mules on the diamond, they too, were able to have a “little makeshift senior game,” as she called it, and shed some light on the dark road ahead. 

Even as the worldwide pandemic was closing in and tearing them away from the sports they loved, Muhlenberg’s student-athletes’ determination to each other has been remarkable. 

As sad and unbelievable as the circumstances may be, the athletes remain as one, even if it has to be through alternative means. For them, staying connected is no longer done in the weight room or in the gym, but through video games, Zoom sessions and GroupMe. 

“We have been playing video games with each other, as well as frequently video chatting on Zoom,” McLoughlin explained. “We have also all been checking on each other in our team group chat. While it has been difficult to stay positive, we have been talking about taking a senior trip somewhere together when this is all over.”

Both Raab and Crivelli also expressed that their teams were taking advantage of technological connections. “We have been staying in touch through our group chats as well as Zoom sessions with the girls because it’s great to actually see everyone,” said Raab.

While structured gym sessions have been halted, that has not stopped these athletes from staying fit and loose. “Working out at home has been a good way to distance myself from all that we are facing. I’ve been going for runs around the neighborhood, as well as lifting the few weights that I have in my basement,” said McLoughlin.

“I’ve also been staying loose by playing basketball and lacrosse in my backyard,” he added. 

Raab has also been finding all different ways to keep active. “I have been running, biking and doing at-home workouts. Our team is coming up with new ways to stay active and work out with things around the house, so it’s been fun to see what people can scrounge from their house to lift with,” said Raab.

Even though they all may be in different locations, there are still fun and exciting ways to come together. 

Tubman, her department, and the Centennial Conference, like the student-athletes, continue to work hard. Within the C.C., “We have a formal meeting this week between the conference directors of athletics,” Tubman explained. “Our conference vice presidents and presidents also meet and will be meeting in the coming weeks to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on institutions and athletics departments.” 

According to Tubman, “The biggest concern is the uncertainty around COVID-19.  Everyone would like to know when we will return to campus and what that will look like, but we just can’t provide a definitive response yet,” she continued.

With sights set on the fall, there are several preparatory steps being taken. “The NCAA has formed [a] COVID-19 Advisory Panel to help guide the NCAA’s response to the pandemic and will make recommendations on issues such as summer workouts, pre-season practices and the start of the fall seasons,” Tubman detailed.

Although uncertainty currently plagues college athletics as a whole, the men and women of Muhlenberg athletics have found ways to remain positive and connected through it all. The diligent efforts of Tubman and her staff as well as the passion of the athletes are exactly what characterize Muhlenberg’s athletic community.    


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