Unconventional senior seasons brings freshmen recruited during condensed seasons

Student+athletes+from+the+class+of+2025+experienced+lost+practices%2C+cancelled+games+and+closed+fields.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Athletic+Communications%29

Student athletes from the class of 2025 experienced lost practices, cancelled games and closed fields. (Photo courtesy of Athletic Communications)

Caroline McParland

Two of the most crucial high school athletic seasons for the class of 2025 were disturbed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new Leopards are looking into their futures on campus with impressive accolades behind them and four years as student-athletes ahead of them.

Most of the student-athletes moved in a day before the start of orientation in order to be given additional information about their programs, and some student-athletes were able to even spend time on campus over the summer to train with their teams. Students are introduced to Lafayette with a three-day First Year Orientation program, the opportunity to join the Pre-Orientation Service Program (POSP), an international student orientation program and a student-athlete based pre-orientation.

“I think I had it a little different than other first-year athletes just because I was here for a whole month beforehand, so I was pretty comfortable not only with the freshmen on my team, but with the other classes as well,” Gretchen Waechter, a defender on the women’s soccer team from Sea Cliff, N.Y., said.

“I think the biggest thing that helped orient the first years was the fact that we came in over the summer,” freshman forward Chris Rubayo, said. “I got to come in and meet almost the entire team, which was definitely helpful, especially with the startup practice yesterday. We weren’t completely unaware of what was going on and had an idea for what our coach wants and how things are done.”

Most of the class of 2025 student athletes experienced condensed seasons and cancelled games in their high school upperclassmen seasons.

“For me, COVID affected my high school sports more than anything,” Waechter said. “We didn’t get to have our spring season. I had three seasons in the course of about three months at the end of the year, which was really difficult, and every season basically got shortened.” Despite adversity, Waechter was named Most Valuable Player in 2020 and 2019 and led her team in scoring for four years.

Rubayo also experienced a shortened season due to COVID-19.

“Normally we play up to 30 games in the season, but instead we only played 15 games, so it was about cut in half. During the basketball season we didn’t go into school, we all stayed at home and took virtual classes just to try and limit exposure,” Rubayo said. “We weren’t allowed to use the locker room all year, and we couldn’t do team film sessions, so we had to go off of the notes that our coach sent us and kind of figure it out on their own.”

“My senior high school season was during the thick of COVID in December and January. I was the only captain and the only senior since my high school was so small, and my parents weren’t allowed to come to my senior day,” explained Grace Boghosian, a Providence, R.I. native who specializes in IM, the butterfly and backstroke on the swim and diving team. Boghosian was team captain of her school’s varsity swim team for her 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 seasons, an All State Independent Athlete in 2018 and Rhode Island Swimming State Finalist in 2019 and 2020.

“My school allowed me to take part in the highschool team since sixth grade, so I’d been looking forward to being a senior for so many years, so that was pretty tough,” Boghosian added. “My club season was pretty challenging because our pool was shut down, and our practices were at 5:30 a.m. before school everyday, so we had to make sure we were working really hard that early in the morning.”

Luckily, the Lafayette athletics staff did what they could to orient the new students and help them bond with their team.

“It was definitely nice to meet other freshmen during orientation, whether they were from other teams or your own because we’re going to cross paths. Your peer mentor group is with people from other sports teams as well, so it’s not just the people you’re always surrounded with,” Waechter said. 

“They introduced us to all of the coaching staff and resources like the sports psychologist. What I took away from that was that I now know who they are if I need something,” Boghosian said.“In my group, a lot of them have similar majors as me, so it was nice to see other athletes that would be managing a schedule like mine while also playing sports.”

For first-year athletes, anxious emotions are common, but manageable with the support from their athletic teams and the college during this time.

“Something I’m most nervous about is time management with traveling for games, and making sure I’m getting in my study hours and fully preparing for all my classes,” Waechter said. “Thankfully, Lafayette has already given us so many resources to help us succeed.”

“The way the team has been bonding is really natural, whether that’s just eating all of our meals together or hanging out at someone’s apartment,” Waechter said. “Getting to know my team has honestly been amazing. Everyone was so welcoming, and they want the students to succeed on the field and off the field, so I think they really make it a priority for the freshmen to feel super comfortable and enjoy their experience.”