Ava Carnley

Ava Carnley returned to the Lions beach volleyball team as a fifth-year senior, but had her season come to a premature end when the ASUN canceled spring sports. [JOSEPH ROMANS/UNA ATHLETICS]

Three months ago, beach volleyball player Ava Carnley graduated from the University of North Alabama and had an extra season of beach volleyball waiting for her.

Carnley signed up for extra classes and put her nursing career on hold in order to keep her eligibility, hoping to give the sport she loves for one last run.

However, just as quick as her season started, those plans changed, along with the rest of the spring sports athletes at UNA for the foreseeable future.

Due to the coronavirus — COVID-19 — the ASUN conference canceled all spring sports for the remainder of the school year. From baseball, softball and beach volleyball, athletics across the ASUN came to an untimely halt.

“This is definitely not what I wanted,” Carnley said. “We came back from Kentucky on Wednesday and then Thursday our season was over and it was just like a blink of an eye.”

That Thursday morning, coaches informed the players the season was postponed. By the afternoon, the ASUN sent out word of the full cancellation.

“We had an emergency meeting that morning,” Carnley said. “And they said that our season was postponed and just to wait and listen. (The coaches) shared information through our group message. But then we got the announcement later that everything was stopped.”

Carnley, along with seniors Genesis Benítez and Libby Jump and the rest of the North Alabama beach volleyball team experienced a collective unexpected sadness after learning the news that a season full of hope and promise stopped so suddenly.

With Carnley being one of the team' veterans and the only senior to be granted a fifth year, she embraced her role as the “mom” of the team, adding emotions from her perspective as a leader.

“It’s just been very sad and emotional,” Carnley said. “A lot of the girls are younger so they get to come back. But I feel like they are my babies or kids so I know they all really look up to me as the mom of the team so I know they are all really sad they won’t ever get to play with me and I’m sad that I won’t get to play with them anymore.”

The issues occurring from the coronavirus didn’t just impact sports. Within the same time frame, North Alabama immediately shut down in-person classes and many students were left scrambling to clear the dorm rooms and stay away from campus including the athletes.

For the majority of the beach volleyball team, many, like sophomore Maya Dickson, never got a full chance to say goodbye. Dickson is from New Zealand and immediately was forced to leave and quarantine back home.

It’s an unfortunate reality of what has happened due to the coronavirus for seniors like Carnley, Jump and Benítez. 

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