Season shut down as Dukes were building momentum

The Dukes were playing their best lacrosse of the season when everything came to a halt.
By  | 

HARRISONBURG, Va. -- The Dukes were playing their best lacrosse of the season when everything came to a halt.

"They don't get that validation so it's just feeling unsatisfied," said JMU women's lacrosse head coach Shelley Klaes-Bawcome.

Klaes-Bawcombe's quote talks about her team's season coming to a premature end due to COVID-19. All spring sports seasons at James Madison University have been cancelled in an effort to decrease spread of the virus.

For JMU women's lacrosse, the cancellation came just when the Dukes were starting to hit their stride. JMU had won five straight games, including top-25 victories over Power Five opponents Virginia Tech and Penn State. The Dukes were on the road to Buffalo, New York for a game at Canisius when news began to break that the season was first suspended and eventually cancelled.

"We had alluded to concerns as soon as the bus pulled out," said Klaes-Bawcombe. "The rest of the day became just dealing with it together. We had plans to stop halfway through to stretch because it was such a long trip. We were at a rest stop when we are finding out everything so we were actually outside the bus, circling up, learning together."

Like most teams around the country, the cancellation of the spring season has been an emotional experience for JMU women's lacrosse. After the Dukes returned to Virginia, they had a brief time together before being sent off campus.

"The girls had an opportunity to kind of speak in front of the team," said Klaes-Bawcombe. "It was emotional...it kind of felt like a funeral."

With the 2020 season over, many questions remain about the future of the team. Seniors will likely have a chance to return for another year with the NCAA stating eligibility relief is appropriate for spring student-athletes whose season was shut down. Specific details have yet to be announced by the NCAA in terms of eligibility related to cancellations due to COVID-19.

In the meantime, Klaes-Bawcombe says the break from playing could be have a positive impact for players, coaches, and staff within the program.

"We're all go-getters. We are not used to having our lives slowed down," said Klaes-Bawcombe. "Maybe, for just this one moment, we need to slow down and allow ourselves to enjoy this little pause."

Klaes-Bawcombe continued: "As a program, we promote and believe it's important to be more than just a lacrosse player. In moments like this I think you have to fall back on having those values because you've got to find some comfort."

JMU finished 2020 ranked No. 13 in the country in the final IWLCA Poll, which was released Thursday.