Photo by Robert Cifone
PITTSBURGH --- When Garrett
Belich (Aliquippa, Pa.) finished the 18th hole at the
Belterra Golf Course in Florence, Ind. in early October, he had no
idea it would be the final hole of his collegiate career. Belich, a
senior, is among nearly a dozen Carlow athletes who had their final
campaigns cut short as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the NAIA joined the NCAA in cancelling all spring sports in
March, many of those planning to wrap up their collegiate careers
over the next few months were hit with a harsh reality - that they
likely wouldn't have the sendoff they envisioned.
"It's very disappointing that it had to end this way," said
Belich, who is majoring in business management and is slated to
graduate at the end of this semester. "In the fall season,
the few matches that we did have, I really started to feel
confident in myself competing at the collegiate level, and really
was hoping for a good few matches to go out there and show what I
can do one last time."
Now, he won't have that opportunity. Although spring athletes
were granted an additional year of eligibility, Belich has decided
to move forward in pursuit of a career. The next time he hits the
links, it will be in recreational form.
"I think it's just the start, honestly," Belich said of his
outlook for the sport. "Golf is a game you can play your entire
life. Now it's just a time to look at it from a recreational
Belich was one of three seniors on the men's golf roster this
year. While Nicholas Paone (Export, Pa.) graduated
in the winter, Belich and Ryan
Bradigan-Barnett (Dayton, Pa.) looked forward to the
spring session that was slated to begin on March 21 with a
tri-match against Point Park University and Grove City
Bradigan-Barnett still has one semester remaining academically,
so he is expected to return to the team for the fall season,
according to Carlow golf coach Ryan Shank.
For Belich, though, he'll fondly remember his athletic career
with the Celtics. Among those highlights was a terrific finish last
year in a match against the Pioneers, when Belich hit an eight iron
within five feet of the pin, and made birdie on the 18th hole.
"Garrett is one of those kids who just puts his head down and
works. He's actually improving in every match; every time that we
see him play, he's getting better," said Shank. "He's going to
enjoy golf for a long time."
Perhaps more than any of his individual accolades, though,
Belich will remember the relationships forged with his teammates
and coaches over the years.
"We're all a very close-knit group of guys on the golf team.
We're all in close contact - texting, calling on a weekly basis. We
just have to come together and be there for one another, and
hopefully once this all clears up, we could get out and play," he
noted. "I'm going to miss those practices and all those matches
with the guys. We spent a lot of good times out there."
Belich is not the only Carlow golfer whose career ended
prematurely, however. On the women's side, former national champion
Natalie Abt (Glenshaw, Pa.) also experienced
the same fate.
Photo by Robert Cifone
Abt, pursuing her master's degree in fraud and forensics,
expects to reach that achievement in August, and then move on from
Carlow University. When she learned of the NAIA's decision to
cancel all spring sports in mid-March, she began to reminisce about
"When they officially called it, I couldn't help but reflect
back on my high school and college career," she said. "After a
couple of days, I was pretty much accepting the fact that my
college career was over, and I could move on to just recreational
golf. It kind of stunk for a little bit, but I think I'm ok with it
That journey has seen plenty of ups and downs during her time as
a member of the Celtics. When she came to Carlow, the women's golf
program was just beginning. Abt became the standard bearer for the
team, culminating with her winning the USCAA Golf National
Championship in 2017. She fired a two-round score of 160 at the
Penn State Blue Course in State College, Pa., becoming the first
individual or team at Carlow University to win a national athletic
The subsequent seasons were injury-plagued, though, as Abt
sustained foot and shoulder injuries. She began returning to form
in the fall, however, and it looked like a strong spring season was
on the horizon.
While she plans to continue golfing, there's no replicating the
experience of playing for the Celtics
"Recreationally, it's more just about getting out there with
some friends and trying to have a good time, without the pressure
or caring who wins," Abt explained. "When I was playing for Carlow
and competing that way, you're representing the school, the team,
and you want to do well. You have to take things really seriously
on the course and while you're practicing."
The two other senior golfers on the women's team, Maria
Lamonde (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and Samantha
Stefanik (Apollo, Pa.), could potentially return for next
season, according to Shank.
Golf was certainly not the only sport affected by the spring
cancellations, however, as Carlow's softball, track & field,
and tennis teams all featured seniors. While some of those athletes
are expected to return next year after being granted an additional
year of eligibility, others will likely move on after this
Among those is softball player Ashley
Hoak (Elizabeth, Pa.), the only senior on the Celtics
roster. Hoak, the Celtics starting third baseman, played in 10
games in March before the season was cancelled. Those contests took
place during the team's week-long trip to Florida.
Photo by Karina Graziani
"Whenever we got the word basically the plug was going to be
pulled (on the rest of the season), I think our focus at that point
turned to Ashley, our senior," Carlow softball coach Glenn
Zinsmeister explained. "For all of these girls, the
end is always something that they know is coming, but you don't
really realize it until it's there. For Ashley, it came several
months sooner than she wanted it to."
As a result, heading into the would-be the final game of the
season, the Celtics and their opponent, Lawrence Tech, held a
makeshift senior day.
Hoak, a nursing major, is expected to pursue her career
following the spring semester.
On the track & field team, senior Javondii
Myers likely will fall just short of a major
accomplishment. In the indoor session, Myers narrowly missed
qualifying in the high jump for the NAIA National
Photo courtesy of River States Conference Sports Information
"Unfortunately, we went out on kind of a sour note with him,"
Carlow track and field head coach Tony Anderson said of Myers. "He
was trying to qualify for indoor nationals, and tweaked his foot
and ankle. He was very close. He was only a centimeter off from
qualifying. I was very confident that he would be able to qualify
during the outdoor season if he stayed healthy."
Myers, a native of Columbia, South Carolina, is expected to move
on after he graduates in perfusion technology.
His fellow seniors on the men's team, Devin
Lewis (Charlotte, N.C.) and John
McDonagh (Pittsburgh, Pa.), could potentially return to
the program next year with the additional eligibility.
Meanwhile, Megan Horgan (Bethel Park, Pa.)
and Katie Winter (Pittsburgh, Pa.) are
expected to conclude their track & field careers with the
Celtics, while Gabrielle Kluger (Yorktown
Heights, N.Y.) could potentially return to the mix next season.
Likewise, Julianna Mamajek (Whitehall, Pa.),
the only senior on the women's tennis team, is expected to return
next year, according to head coach Gina
Photo by Robert Cifone
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