PC Women's Tennis - The Unexpected

"I hope everyone continues to stay safe and follows whatever the leadership in their areas tells them to do." - Ella Rowley

New Normal North of the Border.



When Ella Rowley and her women's tennis teammates took the court for their Big South Conference opener on March 12, they couldn't predict what the future held for them. The term "COVID-19" was gaining visibility, but the full consequences were still unknown.

Rowley had seen on social media that other high-profile conference tournaments and professional leagues were being suspended/postponed and canceled. However, she held out hope they would be able to return. "We hoped this would be a short-term problem, and we were going to be able to return and continue our conference matches," commented Rowley.

Following a tough 5-2 defeat against Winthrop that afternoon, the Blue Hose found out that the season had been suspended through the weekend of March 15. This suspension meant that only one match would be removed from the schedule at that time, a home match against Western Carolina.

Within 24 hours of the WCU cancellation, the league match against USC Upstate had been postponed as well.  This was a precursor to what was about to come.

With the cancellations happening around the back half of Presbyterian College's spring break, the team stayed safe together in Clinton and spent time with each other allowing the situation to play out. The Big South Conference was still determining what the next course of action would be for all of the spring sports, knowing that the NCAA Spring Championships had been called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I knew once you started seeing things get canceled and postponed on a national scale, it meant we were probably not going to be able to return this season," shared Rowley.

Since Presbyterian had already extended spring break by a week due to the virus, Rowley had traveled home to Toronto to spend time with family. She had the intention of coming back to Clinton as she only planned to be in Toronto for a short time, but once the borders began closing, she realized that her stay was being extended for a longer time in Toronto.

"When the borders began to close, that was the indication that our season was going to be done," shared Rowley.

Rowley is one of four players on the women's tennis team that had to deal with border closings to get back home, as Beth Taylor and Beth Lacey both had to figure out how to travel safely back to England, while Jessica Leeman had to get back to Ireland.

On March 18, the Big South Conference announced that it was canceling all regular-season competition, conference championships and athletics activities that are required or that include coach involvement, through the remainder of the 2019-20 season due to the ongoing concerns surrounding the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

This news was incredibly disappointing to Rowley and her teammates as it meant the abrupt end to a season that still had nearly all of league play to complete. "I felt disappointed for our two seniors and felt terrible for Beth Taylor and Katie Thompson not being able to finish the season," added Rowley.

Once the news sunk in, Rowley adapted to a new normal in Toronto, which is similar to what many people have seen in the US. "People in this area are quite worried that Toronto can become similar to what has happened in New York," commented Rowley.

One interesting difference Rowley has seen is more police cars and even military trucks are seen throughout Toronto. She added that they are arresting or fining people for not following the social distancing rules at any point. "It is very strict if you leave your house at all."

Similar to the US, Toronto is encouraging everyone to stay home and only go out for essentials and to practice physical distancing, by staying six feet apart from people. As of April 15, the COVID-19 cases were at 2,670 confirmed in Toronto, as reported by Toronto Public Health.

Rowley has spent the majority of the time at home during the quarantine. She has been able to keep up with an exercise schedule, as maintaining a fitness routine throughout the area is allowed as long as you keep your distance from others. The team has occasionally been meeting on ZOOM with head coach Joel Roberts.

On the academic side, Rowley was used to online classes, as she participated in online courses for a year before her time at Presbyterian. She added that it is a different experience in online classes now compared to then. "We aren't using an online class portal, and we are getting emailed the documents or using the class Moodle." She added that each class has been different across the board, and it's been a different journey than before in online courses.

Rowley added that there's a lot of uncertainty moving forward as the COVID-19 pandemic plays out, and we find out what the next steps are for returning to a healthy life both on and off the court. "I have heard many different possibilities of what the next steps could be for returning, but there's so much uncertainty it is tough to determine what that might be."

"I hope everyone continues to stay safe and follows whatever the leadership in their areas tells them to do," added Rowley.   

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