MAHOPAC, N.Y. – In the month-plus time since schools and businesses closed, and our world was changed, high school senior student-athletes have held on to hope.
Hope that they might get to play a game, walk for graduation, or even say goodbye to their teammates.
That hope fades with each passing week. But they’re going to keep training for a spring season until they hear a whistle.
Caitlin Duffy and Carolyn Galizia, seniors on the Mahopac High School softball team, and Emily Flynn, the lone senior on the golf team, have all been playing their sport since they were young. And while they understand the focus is on everyone getting past this health crisis, they’re also hoping they get to complete some part of their spring.
“I’m staying hopeful because hope is the only thing we can hold on to,” said Galizia, a third-year All-League centerfielder and team captain. “Everything is out of our hands, so I am trying to stay positive until we hear that everything is officially cancelled. Until that point, I have faith that we will have a part of our season to play.”
Duffy, a second-year right-fielder who was due to get her first shot at being a starter for a loaded Indians team this spring, agreed. “I’m still trying to be optimistic that we will have some sort of season, even if it’s shorter and not what we expected,” she said.
Flynn said she’d take any type of play she can get.
“I’m still hopeful we can save some of our spring season, even though I know we may not be able to play in competitions,” Flynn said.
This year’s Mahopac softball team, behind national star and junior pitching sensation Shannon Becker, and most of last year’s returning team, had a storybook season in its sights. After a 2019 season that saw the team go 19-4 and fall in the sectional semifinals, Giansante said the team has been working since October, and had domination in mind.
“We had every intent of winning a state championship,” Giansante told Mahopac News this week. “We were looking really good. We started working in October, and they put in an absurd amount of time. And Shannon (Becker) was looking faster than ever.”
The Indians’ golf team also had hopes of stepping up from a 6-8 season.
“I think we were looking pretty solid this year,” said Indians coach Ray Fortini. “We have a junior who was in sectionals the last two years (Makena Kraus), and the kids were really excited to get going.”
Both coaches are hoping for something to happen for their teams.
“We’re all holding on to hope, keeping our fingers crossed,” Fortini said.
Giansante feels the clock ticking away, but remains hopeful.
“Realistically, every time they push things back, it doesn’t sound good,” she said. “But we still have hope. Until they say otherwise. They worked so hard, and to get nothing out of it. And Shannon was going to break a lot of state records this spring. She’ll be the first to tell you that it’s not important, but… who knows what that will look like after losing a year.
“If we lose the spring, I think it’s just heartbreaking for them,” Giansante added. “None of our seniors were going to play in college, so this was their last year. None of them would get to say goodbye… it really is heartbreaking. But they’re very mature, and understand it’s not all about them, it’s about everyone. They get it.”
Fortini said that while the seniors are losing the most, underclassmen are also losing a valuable season. “It’s such a shame that the seniors are losing their last year,” he said. “And the underclassmen lose their junior year, which is important, also. New kids lose that year of seasoning, the experience. They’ll have to start fresh next year.”
Losing out on the memories they hoped to make this spring is something every senior has thought about.
“The hardest part is not being able to make the memories that I’ve been looking forward to all year,” Duffy said. “We’ve been having workouts all winter preparing for this season, and now we haven’t had the chance to see what we could do.”
“For me the hard part is not being able to see my friends and be with the team every day,” Galizia added. “We’ve been training all winter, everyone has been so excited for this season, and it was very upsetting when it all got taken away from us. We’ve all been counting down the days until the season started, and it’s hard to swallow the fact that we may not have that season.”
Flynn added, “I think the hardest thing is knowing it is my last year to play for the team, and the whole thing could be ruined. Knowing that right now we could be practicing, or in competitions.”
Flynn and her senior classmates said they’ve learned to look at things differently as a result of this experience.
“I now appreciate the moments and opportunities I was able to have with my teammates in the previous years,” Flynn said. “It’s now easier to understand patience in everything.”
Duffy shared those feelings.
“I’ve learned to try to not take anything for granted anymore,” Duffy added. “And to appreciate the little things more because I never pictured my senior season and year to be like this.”
Galizia said she’s developed a new appreciation for friends and school.
“Because you never get a full understanding of how much you love it until you can’t have it anymore,” Galizia said. “I would give anything to be back in school… this year was my last year, and it’s hard to deal with the fact that we may never go back. Not seeing my friends is extremely hard, since we saw each other almost every day. So, I learned to not take all of those things for granted. We have to just make the best out of every situation, because you never know when it can end and be taken away from you.”
Many have gained a new respect for health care workers.
“I’ve definitely gained a new respect for all the essential workers, especially the health care workers,” Duffy said. “I know they’ve always been important, but now they’re risking their lives more than ever.”
Giansante has also been at the center of an effort to help feed health care workers at area hospitals. She and her friend, Dylan Salaverria, started an effort to collect money to use for food, which they then deliver to area hospitals.
The effort started with a small circle of friends, and has grown into something much larger—Giansante and Salaverria currently make deliveries to 21 hospitals—because, as Giansante explained, people want to help.
“We were just trying to figure out a way to help,” Giansante said of how the food deliveries started. “We reached out to a group, and they reached out to a bigger group.”
And the response has been overwhelming, as can be seen on Giansante’s public Facebook page, which includes dozens of photos of grateful health care workers.
“The response has been just awesome,” Giansante said. “You’d think we were the ones saving lives… They send us pics to see how happy they are. We get letters, thank yous from nurses. They’re so burned out right now, so they are so grateful.”
The Indians softball team recently donated some vital items to help the food delivery effort, Giansante said.
“They donated 500 chocolate bars, and a bunch of checks,” she said. “It was really nice.”
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