Seniors around the area are grappling with emotions as they deal with the reality that their high school playing days are over.
Chloe Vrhovac feels empty.
Like many, she’s stuck in the house playing a waiting game that doesn’t feel like it will ever end, and the days grow increasingly longer.
She has hobbies she loves — cooking, painting and embroidering — but there is one constant that’s been taken out of her life: softball. It’s hit the Ocoee senior centerfielder hard. So hard, in fact, that she has made changes to her own home.
“I’ve basically been doing everything but looking at things in my house that remind me of softball,” Vrhovac said. “I cleaned out my drawer with all my softball pants in it, and I took all of my trophies down and put them in a box because I was like, ‘I can’t look at it.’ It makes me sad to look at it.”
Vrhovac isn’t alone. For a good number of seniors such as Vrhovac, this was it — this was the swan song of their athletic careers. It’s why not having control of the end is what hurts the most.
“I guess I didn’t get the ending that I really wanted,” Vrhovac said. “I was looking forward to my last 12 games. I was looking forward to all the good parts of the ending.”
Although Vrhovac’s career is done, teammate Karleigh Curtis will go on to play softball at St. Petersburg College, but the pain of seeing such a positive year come to an abrupt end is heartbreaking.
“It sucks that I didn’t get to finish my senior year,” Curtis said. “This year was probably going to be the best year for us, out of all of my four years. The fact that it got cut short was disappointing.”
Of course, the seniors understand how serious the pandemic is, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t feelings of sadness, frustration and anger, said Windermere Prep senior Jonah Best — who had been enjoying stints on the lacrosse, weightlifting and track teams.
“I wouldn’t say that I’m upset, but it’s annoying for sure that our spring sports are just kind of gone,” Best said. “I’m kind of one of the lucky ones that my main sport is in the fall with football, but I had a lot going on this spring. Me and Ross Fournet are both actually playing three spring sports — that’s three seasons of ours that got cut short.”
Having your season cut short is soul-crushing as it is, but it’s made even worse when you’re on a mission that has been building up for years.
The last time the Olympia girls water polo team made it to states was in 2017 — a long time for a program that is used to success. This year was supposed to see the Titans right the ship, said senior utility player Ali Wagner.
“Going into this season, that was kind of our main goal — getting back to that spot,” Wagner said. “We’ve all been playing with each other the last three years, and we had really good chemistry this year, and everything was just working in our favor.
“We got so close to getting to the playoff and getting past that point that we knew we could get to,” she said. “It just feels like it was taken away from us.”
REMEMBERING THE GOOD TIMES
The time at home also has given student-athletes time to reflect on their time in school.
For West Orange High second baseman Sarah Leach, it isn’t her time on the softball field she will remember the most.
“(It’s) probably the time before games when we’re all getting ready and we’re all in the locker room, and it’s just us — we’re just cracking jokes on each other and just having a bunch of fun,” Leach said. “It’s a different story every time.”
“I guess I didn’t get the ending that I really wanted. I was looking forward to my last 12 games. I was looking forward to all the good parts of the ending.”
— Chloe Vorhovac, Ocoee Softball, senior
As friends were made and bonds formed off the field, on the field there were moments that affected not only the team but the community, as well.
When the Ocoee baseball team won its first district title last year in a stressful 7-6 win over Lake Minneola, shortstop Charles Kwarteng — now a senior — saw reactions from around the city that he hadn’t been expecting. Of everything he experienced during his time at Ocoee, that will be the memory that will last the longest.
“We already knew it was a big accomplishment for the school and for the guys on the team and guys who played here before, but we didn’t take into consideration how big it was for the whole city,” Kwarteng said. “I would go to Publix, and people who would see me with my baseball shirt on and say, ‘Congratulations, it means a lot to us,’ so for my school to finally do something like that … it was really cool.”