Defending State Champions Deal With Disappointment

 
On Thursday, MSHSAA canceled the spring high school sports season.
Karen Goshorn Reese,retiring teacher at Lincoln and mother of Lincoln senior, Chloe Reese, said, "We have had lots of tears in our house today for many reasons but this too shall pass. “
The Lincoln Lady softball team are THE defending spring softball state champions. They are the only state champions as there is only one class in spring softball. They defeated two bigger schools in the Final Four last spring to claim that coveted honor. 
Like with every other  high school team in Missouri, their season is offically over now that MSHSAA made their announcement. 
Through social media, I was able to converse with Head Coach Chris Sanders and with a couple of his players before the announcement was made. Below are our conversations. (Note- These statements were made before the final announcement was made.)
Johnie - Coach, how do you feel about the season being on hold?
Coach Sanders- It is really frustrating but we, as a team and community, have to look ahead to the big picture and the safety of everyone. We usually draw big crowds and wouldn’t be safe.
Johnie- Your team would have been pretty good. (They graduated ace pitcher Aleah Paxton among others but returned a great amount of talent.)
Coach Sanders- Yes, we as a team/coaches, had high expectations again for this year.  Returning six starters from last year’s team, including all-state Haley Mackey and four all-district players, Chloe Reese, Cadyn Paxton, Haley Ebeling, and Jenna Vandaveer.  The team had a good first two weeks of practice before we had to stop due to the school closing due to COVID-19. All the girls were focused and driven to get back to Springfield for another run at the Final Four.
Johnie- How is this affecting you as a coach?
Coach Sanders- It’s hard because there is so much potential again on this team.  The other coaches and myself have planned and looked forward to this season since last year ended.  As a coach, it’s what you pray for, talented hard-working athletes that love to have fun and want to WIN.
Johnie- What do you tell your players at this point?
Coach Sanders- Stay focused and continue to workout individually. Hopefully things will get better and MSHSAA can figure out a way so we can play a shorter schedule.  I know the possibility of that is far reaching but we can all have hope.  It will be hard especially for the seniors, Mackey and Reece, if we don’t get to play. They won’t get to experience their last run at State and all the senior activities.
I also chatted with senior Chloe Reese and junior Caydn Paxton. I asked them as the defending state champs how it felt not to be playing, how good the team looked and if they was practicing on her own. 
Reese commented, “Coming off of a great season last year makes this season hurt that much more. It hurts too knowing that a big part of my last season as a Lady Cardinal has been taken away from me. But I’ll always be thankful for the past three seasons, no matter what happens this year." 
"We have quite a few returning starters from last season and some great freshman that will step up and make a difference. I’m looking forward to playing however much as  we can this year."
I have been practicing by myself. Mostly playing catch and getting some reps catching fly balls. Anything I can do to have some fun playing at home.
Paxton commented,"Its definitely disappointing. Even though we won, I still feel like we had something to prove. I feel bad for our seniors who lost their season. We had a chance to get back to the championship, win our fourth straight district title, and our fourth straight conference title." 
We lost three starters and we had some freshmen ready to step up and fill those positions. I think we have enough returning experience to put us far into the post season. 
Yes, I have been hitting and pitching with my sisters trying to prepare myself for whatever season we might get.”
 Most people expected the season to be  cancelled.Coach Sanders said on Friday, "I knew when they changed the timeline to May that it probably wouldn’t happen.”
So now it is over. Their expectations, their hopes and their dreams ended on Thursday. Their hours of practice, their dedication to the sports they loved won’t be fullfilled this time around. Many other states had already cancelled their seasons. The writing was on the wall but there was a ray of hope and hope is a very precious thing to say the least. The Bible says,  “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick.” (Proverbs 13:12)
The year 2020 will be looked back on for many reasons. For high school athletes, it will be a sad memory. In the big picture, needless to say, there were more important things that we had to deal with.
As a reporter and a fan, I wanted to see the Lincoln girls play. I wanted to see Jackson Beaman play baseball. Cole Camp baseball would had been good. Warsaw’s Parker Love would had torn things up in track. Sorry, kids, I wish I could fix it but I can’t. Thanks for the memories.
It was truly the season that wasn’t.

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