LBSU senior athletes stay for one last dance

COVID-19 changed the lives of athletes by canceling seasons, postponing championship runs and changed their perspectives on what to do next.

In the year of 2020, life changed in a blink of an eye, as the world took on an unexpected challenge. A challenge that caught the whole world by surprise. A surprise that no one wanted. COVID-19.

Students went from learning in a classroom to having to quickly adapt to virtual learning. For many, it was difficult to get accustomed to the new situation.

Student athletes would find this moment to be gut-wrenching, blindsided by how things took an unexpected turn.

It disrupted their expected timeline to graduate and robbed them of benefits they could’ve had such as a chance for a scholarship, whether it be academic or athletic.

All of the commitment from these student athletes was taken away in a blink of an eye.

Of the student athletes at Long Beach State, Ma’Qhi Berry from women’s basketball, Cam Cecil from softball and Garrett Zaan from men’s water polo, decided to stay another year to gain back what was taken from them during the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ma'Qhi Berry guarding her opponent to prevent her from scoring.
Ma'Qhi Berry guarding her opponent to prevent her from scoring. Photo credit: LBSU Athletics John Fajardo

When the opportunity to stay another year was presented to Berry she didn’t hesitate to make her decision, as her love for LBSU and the program also had a big influence in making her decision.

“When we got an announcement to stay another year I took it just to get those games back,” Berry said.

To these athletes, being denied a year to play the sports they love not only took away their time playing games, but also took away bonding time with other teammates.

Playing with teammates and coaches who are cherished, as well as missing out on the culture, influenced Cecil to stay another year, saying she didn’t want her decision to be something she would look back later on and regret.

For Zaan, leaving Long Beach State with an entire year being taken away wouldn’t have sat right with him.

“I just wanted to make the most out of my time. It wouldn’t have done me just,” Zaan said.

Garrett Zaan attempting to block his opponent from scoring.
Garrett Zaan attempting to block his opponent from scoring. Photo credit: LBSU Athletics John Fajardo

He also labeled this year as a “revenge tour,” as the men’s water polo team finished 22-6 last year, coming up just short of winning the National Championship game against UC Davis.

By staying another year, all three student athletes have gained a perspective of what they might want to do after they graduate.

Cecil works for the athletics department at LBSU and said it’s interesting to watch how everything functions behind the scenes and feels that working there has opened doors for her future plans.

Berry shares that staying another year will grant an opportunity to learn more about the sports industry.

Despite this being his last year, Zaan still wants to stay with the sport and possibly give coaching a chance.

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