MONMOUTH — One minute, the Western Oregon University women’s softball team was celebrating its 4-0 shutout victory in between a doubleheader against Montana State University Billings on March 12; the next, head coach Lonny Sargent broke the news that the remaining season was canceled.
“When Sarge told us, I was in shock,” said Kennedy Coy, right-fielder. “I didn’t understand at first — I thought he was telling us there would be no Great Northwest Athletic Conference tournament. When I realized our next game was probably going to be our last, I was heartbroken.”
GNAC and the National Collegiate Athletics Association announced on March 12 that all sports competition and practice were canceled for the rest of the season, effective March 13. This decision was just one more made in an effort to deal with the state’s outbreak of the coronavirus that began in late February.
The team was crushed at the news — especially the four seniors: Coy, Ayanna Arceneaux, Chandler Bishop and Nicole Miller,
“There was a lot of hugging and crying,” Coy said. “They (coaches) gave us time to sort of gather ourselves and get ready for the game.”
And then they got down to business.
“As sad and scary as the situation was, we had one more game to play,” she said. “So after all the hugging and crying we pulled it together because we weren’t done yet.”
The Wolves won the second game, 4-2.
“I have never experienced a game like that in all my years of playing,” Coy said. “Looking back, I’m really glad we got told before the game instead of after because we left everything we had on that field. The energy was electric from both dugouts. For me, it was really strange switching in between focusing on the task at hand and trying to soak everything in and appreciate it as it was happening. I would be in right field thinking to myself, ‘Alright, we have two outs,’ and then all of a sudden I’m fighting back tears because it’s already the fifth inning. That game went by so fast. But I’m never going to forget that day. It brought us together as a team and it made me appreciate everything softball has given me.”
After the team’s final game, Coy and the other seniors were recognized in a small ceremony.
“Senior night was something that I had been looking forward to for years,” she said. “Even though it wasn’t how we imagined it would be, I am so grateful that they managed to put together a small celebration for us and for the seniors on MSUB. They gave us flowers and we took pictures with family that were able to come. It was a very emotional and special moment.”
Coy has spent the last four years playing for WOU; in 2019, she earned GNAC academic honors, and was an ALL-GNAC Honorable Mention. She finished second on the team with a .388 batting average, tied for first with four triples, second with eight doubles, fifth with 23 RBI, and second on the team with 34 runs scored. She played in 46 games that included 45 starts, and had the longest hitting streak on the team that went 15 games.
Additionally, she helped the Wolves make it to the GNAC tournament, falling 3-0 in the second game to Northwest Nazarene University, and ending the season ranked No. 4 in the west region.
The team then went on to play in the NCAA Division II West Regionals Tournament, eventually ending its run there with a 5-0 loss to Concordia-Irvine.
“Kennedy has grown so much in the four years she’s been at WOU,” said Sargent. “I’ve known her since she was 12 or 13. She’d come to camps and her energy hasn’t changed, which is amazing. She has been a big part of the energy for the team. She grew into a leadership role and has excelled in it. I love this job because of players like Kennedy. To see them grow from their freshman year to becoming the strong, independent women that they are when they leave is what it’s all about.”
Going into this season, Coy and the team had big goals: To win the GNAC tournament and have another shot at regionals.
“Even though we didn’t get the chance to do so, I am really proud of this group,” Coy said.
There is a silver lining in all of this for her.
“I am coming back next year to finish out my last season of eligibility,” she said. “It wasn’t an easy choice, but I’ve been playing softball most of my life and I really want to finish what I started.”
She’s looking at starting the Master’s of science degree in Education Information Technology program, with an interest in virtual education, offered through WOU.
“I am extremely excited that she is coming back next year,” Sargent said. “Kennedy and Chandler (Bishop) have both decided to come back and we couldn’t be happier. Their experiences with WOU Softball will help lift all of our newest members to higher levels a bit more quickly.”
Coy is looking forward to getting another shot at putting on that black, red and white jersey, but it’s going to be bittersweet.
“Not everyone is coming back next year, and it breaks my heart we didn’t get to finish what we started,” Coy said. “With this group of girls, we had a really strong connection. Even though the program will keep moving forward, this team in particular won’t get to play together again.
“One thing I have learned from this is you really can’t take anything for granted,” she added. “I’m kicking myself for every time I didn’t want to go to practice or was dreading morning workouts. Right now I’d give anything to be in season.”
Coy hopes that softball is in her life for a long time, in one capacity or another.
“I’ve always seen myself becoming a coach when I’m all done playing,” she said. “I don’t know if that will be tournament ball or high school, but I know I’ll coach in some capacity and I’m so excited for that.”
There’s another thing she is looking forward to for next year: Her wedding.
“Since the Master’s program I’m planning on doing is online, after the 2021 season is over I will be getting married that July and then moving to Fayetteville, North Carolina,” Coy said. “My fiance, Alex, is in the Army, and while he’s currently deployed in the Middle East, his duty station is Fort Bragg. I’ve got unfinished business to do first, but I am really looking forward to the next chapter.”