Arizona Athletics issued a statement today from legendary softball coach Mike Candrea about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that has forced the cancellation of the rest of his team’s season after the NCAA banned championship events in all spring sports.
“Every once and a while we are reminded that life outside the white lines matters much more than the game we play inside of them, and while I try constantly to instill that in our players, nothing can quite prepare you for the news that we’ve dealt with in the past days,” Candrea said in the statement. “These are incredibly difficult times worldwide and this serves as a reminder that life is so much bigger than any game we will ever play.
“Our team meeting this past Thursday following the cancelation of our season was one of the most difficult moments in my 45-year coaching career. The 2020 team will always hold a special place in my heart, not because of what we accomplished or what I believed we may have accomplished in the future, but because every day I was able to coach them was an honor and privilege.”
Arizona had won 11 straight games and was 22-3 when the season was canceled following Tuesday’s win over St. Joseph’s at Hillenbrand Stadium.
Seniors such as shortstop Jessie Harper, centerfielder Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza, second baseman Reyna Carranco, third baseman Malia Martinez and pitchers Mariah Lopez and Alyssa Denham were among the best in the Pac-12 and the nation at their positions.
“They were an incredible team on the field, but an even better group of young ladies to be around at practice, in the weight room, in study hall, at team meals, everywhere,” Candrea mentioned. “This team was a special group that did things with high character, and I am proud to be their coach.”
The talented senior group was granted another year of eligibility by the NCAA because of the cancelation of the rest of the season, most notably the Women’s College World Series. If any of the seniors opt to return, they will join senior catcher Dejah Mulipola, who is scheduled to play with Team USA in the Summer Olympics.
“I was thrilled to find out on Friday that the NCAA has decided to grant relief for the use of a season of competition for all student-athletes who have participated this spring,” Candrea said. “This will allow our seniors the opportunity to regain their eligibility. I’m so happy for not only our six seniors, but all seniors around the country, who didn’t deserve to see their careers end this way.
“I know the NCAA has a lot to figure out between now and then, but I’m very thankful they did the right thing and moved quickly and definitively on this.”
Candrea also took the opportunity to address Arizona fans and the situation of the COVID-19 virus itself in the statement.
“I want to thank our incredible fans for all of their support this season. You continue to make Hillenbrand Stadium one of the best home environments in the country and we look forward to our next opportunity to play in front of you,” Candrea mentioned.
“My thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by COVID-19. I am confident and thankful that the measures taken by the NCAA, the Pac-12 and the University of Arizona will help to slow this global pandemic and were made with the health of our student-athletes and their families, staff, employees and fans at the forefront of their decision making process. As we continue to get constant updates, we will take this one day at a time. Be safe and we will get through this together. The most important thing at this moment is to take care of your family, friends and your faith!”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.