Outlook After the Heartbreak: NDSU Softball Head Coach Darren Mueller Reflects on Canceled Season
Topics covered: How the news was heard, impact on season, defining shortened season
FARGO, N.D. — North Dakota State softball was just 23 games into their season before COVID-19 canceled the rest of competition for 2020. The Bison were in a meeting getting ready to hit the road for their next tournament when the news broke.
“It was an emotional time,” Mueller said. “To get that news in the middle of a meeting and that wasn’t even the discussion of anything obviously its tough news for them to hear and we were fortunate that we were actually in a meeting and not having them found out on social media and other ways.”
With no games and no ball for the Bison, the student part of student-athlete becomes the main focus for the rest of spring and the semester.
“Really the focus right now is to make sure they do everything academically and staying on top of that,” Mueller said. “Also checking in on their well-being to make sure they’re doing OK with everything going on. They’re use to a structured plan with everything from practice, school and training room, all those different things, we just want to make sure they’re doing OK.”
The NCAA has discussed a ruling to grant a one-time exemption for seniors to get an additional year of eligibility and coach Mueller hasn’t ruled out that his four seniors won’t come back next season.
“I haven’t had directly asked them that question because when they’ve asked me I’ve said, lets just wait and see how everything plays out because there are so many different factors yet to be determined and then go from there but obviously they all want to go out on a high note and not everyone will be able to do that,” Mueller said. “I just think they’re still keeping their options open.”
If some of the seniors do decide to move on, coach Mueller says there’s no doubt this group will be remembered for what they’ve accomplished.
“Three of them have been on the field since day one of their freshman year, they’ve played a lot of games and have a lot of experience,” Mueller said. “Lauren (Reimers), same for her, she got injured a little bit but she’s put in a lot of time and experience as well. They’ve definitely been a big part of our success over the years. Big contributors, really good leaders this year. Off the field on the field.”
How do you close a chapter on a book that wasn’t finished? You look at the positives.
“Our record wasn’t the best but we had a really tough schedule but I think it was one of the top 40 schedules in the country and we had a lot of top 25 games, wish we would’ve pulled some of those but I thought the team was getting better,” Mueller said. “Its tough to define it because we were just kind of getting things going and our schedule was getting more in our favor a little bit more than it probably was early on but it was good to see a lot of the younger athletes do well but just so many unanswered questions because we didn’t get a chance to play the full season
In what could’ve been, the Bison were vying for an tenth Summit League Championship in eleven seasons and won’t get the chance to see it through. It’s important to remember what the team has accomplished with a situation out of their control.