Team Black defeated Team Yellow, 3-2 on Oct. 7

This past spring, everyone around the world was impacted by COVID-19. The pandemic impacted many factors of life, one of the biggest being sports. UWS athletics were cancelled and are returning to a closer norm with fall in our midst. The games aren’t normal whatsoever, but they do give athletes an opportunity to be able to compete with their teammates once again.

Spring sports were put on hold during spring break when COVID took over and shut down the entire country. For the University of Wisconsin-Superior, spring sports had just begun their seasons, including track and field, who won the UMAC Indoor Tournament just weeks before the shutdown. CJ Pillath was in North Carolina for the NCAA Division 3 Indoor Championships with a shot to compete to become a national champion.

When the news broke, the two coaches and lone teammate that rode down to North Carolina had no idea what was next and at one point were left trying to find a way back for 12 hours, comparing the feeling to the grieving of a lost loved one. The team was looking to five-peat as the UMAC men’s regular season champions.

On March 12, the NCAA announced all competition was canceled indefinitely. Both the University’s baseball and softball teams were scheduled to leave for Auburndale, and Naples, Florida the following day. “Losing our spring break trip was difficult, but undoubtedly losing the rest of our season and the chance at winning a conference championship was the biggest blow,” said Nick Bursik, Director of Athletics and 2020 interim head softball coach.

Freshman Tayler Kraemer (22) delivers a pitch for Team White on Oct. 8. Team White defeated Team Black 14-4
Freshman Tayler Kraemer (22) delivers a pitch for Team White on Oct. 8. Team White defeated Team Black 14-4. Photo by Holden Law

The softball team was 14-2 and second overall in conference play the year before and were ready to make another run at a conference championship with a “team full of strong depth and bats just beginning to come alive” and a group of “special and talented players,” Bursik said. In their 10 games before lockdown, the team went 5-5 including an 8-0 one-hitter by pitcher Amanda Kinish, who recorded a careerhigh 8 strikeouts in her final game as a UWS Yellowjacket.

Since then, the ‘Jackets have graduated a senior class, welcomed the freshman class and hired Melissa Fracker as head coach. They also have done the same as many of the fall teams, playing intrasquad games to give an in-game feeling to the players. So far, they have been able to play two games, splitting the two between Teams Black and White. Baseball also plans to play an intrasquad series, with their fall exhibitions beginning Saturday, October 17.

Both the men’s and women’s tennis teams were only a few games into the season. The teams struggled in the games they were able to play, with the men finishing 0-4 and then women 1-3. “The team became more adverse and handled the situation very well, especially having five seniors on the team that never fully knew when they would have their last practice,” said secondyear Head Coach CeeJay Schaffner. “With every push back, we never really knew what the next step was because no one had ever been in a situation as problematic as COVID.” The team was back up and running throughout the fall season; no games were played, but they did manage to get some practice in while the weather was still on their side.

As far as fall and winter sports go, both the WIAC and UMAC suspended play until at least January 1, 2021. However, the coaches and athletic director have worked to create great substitutions for the players and their supporters. Talking to the coaches, they each relayed the same basic principle — finding a fun way to practice without having a set time for when they will compete.

Glen Drexler, Head Coach of the Track and Field team, had a campfire day and an egg toss to help the team have fun during the constricted season. Not having a final destination like a championship has changed the whole landscape of the UWS athletic experience this year, especially in practice.

The goal for practice has switched for the coaches, as they now have much more time to practice. The developmental side of practice has taken a huge leap, and the coaches feel they have more time to work with the athletes and help them become better athletes.

As volleyball Head Coach Lynne Deadrick said, “intrasquad games have the intensity level where they are not the same as a practice.” She pinned this on being able to treat it like a game, with iFan, broadcasting teams and stat keepers coming to make it more of an ingame feel than a regular sand volleyball tournament. Splitting into Team Black and Team Yellow, the two teams split their first two games. Team Yellow won the third game, 3 sets to 1.

In men’s soccer, the team has been playing in the Super Series. Team Built Different and Team Earn It split their first two games with a final of 4-2 in each. In the third game, Built Different responded with a strong performance that shut out Earn It, 8-0. Junior Blake Perry had an amazing showing, dropping a hat trick and two assists to lead the team to victory.

Women’s soccer has also begun their own Super Series, playing one game so far. Team White was the first to achieve a win, pulling out a 6-4 victory after a slow start. Four of White’s goals were split between Junior Annah Schussman and Freshman Kaitlyn Raisch.

We all have been affected by this situation in many ways, and sports are just one of the pieces of this puzzle. As a normal season becomes closer to reality, many hope that we will soon be on track for full games across the state with fans in attendance.

The absence of sports happened simultaneously with the transition to digital learning, lack of work for the nonessential, and the loss of activities. The future of UWS sports aren’t clear cut, but as we see progress in everything, we all aspire to have the Yellowjackets back and fully in action.