For College Athletes, Time Stands Still

Ashley Lahey, Pepperdine senior and No. 1 ranked women’s tennis player

Pepperdine Waves tennis player Ashley Lahey was acing her way through a season that featured her ranked as the country’s top singles player in the Oracle/ITA Division 1 women’s rankings last month. The senior had won nine matches since the start of the new year and collected a West Coast Conference Singles Player of The Week Award and a doubles team of the week award with freshman Astrid Olsen.

Then, two days before Lahey and her teammates, collectively 13th in rankings, were set to host USC on March 14, the seasons of all the nation’s active college sports teams were suspended due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. 

Initially, Lahey was disappointed that her campaign had ended. 

“It took me a few days to process everything happening at once,” she said. “One day, we were getting told that Pepperdine was doing everything in its power to keep everyone in classes and on campus, and then the next day they canceled school for everyone. The next day, they canceled everyone’s seasons.” 

The tennis star heard of the deadly illness when it first stretched from its epicenter in China, but never thought coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, would change the daily lives of individuals globally by sickening millions, killing thousands, and forcing people to quarantine themselves in their homes. 

The untreatable sickness seemingly ended Lahey’s drive for a successful final college tennis season until March 30 when the NCAA, college sports governing body, announced its Division I Council voted to allow schools to provide spring-sport student athletes an additional season of competition and an extension of their period of eligibility. The NCAA said the decision was especially important for college athletes whose last year for eligibility was closed suddenly because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“The Board of Governors encouraged conferences and schools to take action in the best interest of student-athletes and their communities, and now schools have the opportunity to do that,” said Council Chair M. Grace Calhoun.

Winter sports weren’t included in the ruling and the eligibility for student-athletes in sports where all or much of their regular seasons were completed weren’t added. 

The sports that were in season at Pepperdine included baseball, men’s golf, men’s tennis, men’s volleyball, track, women’s beach volleyball, women’s golf, and women’s tennis. 

At press time, it wasn’t known how many Waves athletes would take advantage of the NCAA’s decision to grant them an extra season of play. 

Lahey wants to take advantage of the extra year. She would gladly trade a non-completed season upended by the coronavirus for one more full season on the court for Pepperdine with her coaches and teammates. 

“We got robbed of a season,” she said. “We only had a few matches, but it really wasn’t the experience you would hope for. We were just getting started. The fact that I get a chance to spend another year here makes that a lot better.” 

The tennis player is quarantined with some friends. Lahey is making the best of her situation by taking classes online, working out and enjoying time with her housemates. 

“I don’t think there are many chances where we get to have a break from tennis and you know read a book, learn a new instrument,” she said. “There are lots of things to do. You just have to be intentional in finding things that make you happy.” 

Being at Pepperdine an additional year will make Lahey’s transition to professional tennis easier.

“I will be able to play pro tournaments while playing for Pepperdine next year, and I will have a great place where I can train,” she said.

The pandemic ended multiple successful Waves sports campaigns. 

The women’s tennis team had an 8-4 win-loss record. Along with the No. 1 Lahey, Anastasia Iamachkine was ranked 33rd and Jessica Failla was ranked 35th. The two were the 55th-rated doubles paring in the nation.

The men’s tennis team was undefeated and ranked 19th. Senior Adrian Oetzbach and sophomore Tim Zeivogel were undefeated in singles matches. Sophomore Daniel De Jonge won the WCC singles player of the week award on March 10. He and Oetzbach also won the doubles award. 

The men’s golf team was ranked first in the final Bushnell Golfweek Coaches Poll. Senior Sahith Theegala was the top-rated golfer by Golfweek/Sagarin, and freshman William Mouw was 15th. Both were named finalists for the Fred Haskins Award. Mouw was selected for the U.S. Arnold Palmer Cup team. 

Men’s volleyball player Noah Dyer was named to the All-Mountain Pacific Sports Federation first team. Junior middle blocker Austin Wilmot was named to the second team. Setter Joe Karlous and libero Diego Perez were tapped for the all-freshman team. 

The baseball team had a 12-3 record and was ranked 16th in the Collegiate Baseball Magazine and Baseball America polls. The bunch was rated 21st in the D1 Baseball rankings. Earlier in March, Mike Malinchak, a junior outfielder, was named the WCC Player of the Week.