College athletes at Montclair State University had their spring seasons cut short due to the COVID-19 outbreak. For many, this spring season was their last chance to play their hearts out on the field.
The Montclair State men’s lacrosse team had six seniors whose collegiate careers were affected by the NCAA’s decision to cancel all sports.
After being notified of the cancellations, one can only imagine the devastation these senior athletes faced.
Senior defender Tim Kirn understands the severity of the pandemic, but was excited for his team to potentially make the NCAA tournament in his senior season.
“We have not had a tournament appearance since my freshman year when we won the Skyline Conference,” Kirn said. “I think that is one of the things that upsets me the most, that I will never get to be a part of a conference championship again as a player.”
Kirn further expressed gratitude toward his fellow teammates and coaches, thanking them for the time they spent together.
“To every player that was a part of the 2020 season, I could not thank them enough for giving it their all in the limited time that we had together,” Kirn said. “To my coaches, thank you for letting me have a voice as a senior captain and letting me lead these men every single day.”
Kirn also extended a thank you to the previous coach for the team.
“I also want to thank the late Coach Mike Schambach, he is the greatest man that I have ever known,” Kirn said. “He cared about lacrosse, he cared about who you are as a person. Without him, I would have never ended up at Montclair State.”
Similar to Kirn, senior midfielder, Skyler Francisco, was just as excited to play his final season.
“I was looking forward to being a leader on this team,” Francisco said. “I was always a player who took pride in trying to make my teammates around me better. I have said it since I was young, I would rather get an assist than a goal. A team who shares that same mindset is a pretty scary team and we had that this year.”
Although devastated, Francisco understands the importance of the NCAA decision.
“This pandemic made me realize how small sports are in life, people are losing loved ones, losing their jobs, struggling to support their families, the last thing I should be doing is complaining about how my lacrosse season ended,” Francisco said. “This pandemic has opened my eyes to many things and I truly believe each one of us will be a little more appreciative of everyday life once this is all over.”
Kyle Birkner, a senior midfielder, was excited to return to the game after recovering from an injury.
“I was looking forward to taking it all in,” Birkner said. “I made it a point to myself at the beginning of the year to make sure that I would just enjoy every little moment with the guys around me, regardless of the ups and downs. I had an injury-prone career so making back to play while fully healthy for one more year was all I was excited about.”
Similar to his teammates, Birkner has struggled with the sudden end of his collegiate career.
“It just felt a little surreal,” Birkner said. “I never would have imagined my career as an athlete would end so soon. Our conference hung on without canceling the season as long as we could, so we had a little hope. But this whole thing really drove home the message to never take a day of doing something you love for granted.”