Urquhart, Belles stay positive despite season postponement
Greg McKenna | Wednesday, August 12, 2020
When the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) announced the postponement of all fall sports on July 30, Saint Mary’s soccer head coach Jesse Urquhart’s initial reaction was one of obvious disappointment for his players, but also an acknowledgment that the decision was made to protect his student-athletes.
“We’re certainly disappointed, especially given how … prepared they were (and) how hard they worked for the season,” Urquhart said. “[But] if we can’t provide a safe environment to ensure the health and safety of the players then obviously … the decision I think speaks for itself.”
There is hope that the Belles will be able to take the field this spring, however. According to a July 30 press release from Saint Mary’s athletics, Division III schools are awaiting legislative changes that would allow fall sports to compete in the spring and hold official practices this fall.
Urquhart believes his team would especially relish the opportunity to play the 2020 season in the spring and sees the extension of the offseason as a critical opportunity for his young team to develop.
“At least half of our roster is from Michigan, Illinois and states where they actually played their high school seasons in the spring,” he said. “So we’re going to use this time … not only [to] work on technical development and individual development, but we can spend more time on the tactical side of the game, and we can certainly use the time for more team bonding. [The postponement will] allow our large freshman class to really get to know each other … [and] returning players. And quite frankly, it also gives a lot of our first-years or nursing majors an opportunity to get settled in the first semester, and they don’t have to worry about hitting the ground running with the season starting right away.”
If MIAA soccer does return in the spring of 2021, the Belles should be well-positioned to improve on their 5-11-1 record in 2019. After starting the season 5-3-0, which included an 8-0 demolition of IU-South Bend, Saint Mary’s went winless in their last nine games and finished 0-7-1 in conference play.
After only graduating goalkeeper Thallia Robles and midfielder Kellen Hinchey, however, the Belles will look to take a massive step forward in Urquhart’s fifth year with the program. Junior forward Rose Stackhouse, who earned second-team All-MIAA honors for the second consecutive year after leading the Belles with 10 goals and seven assists, should be one of the most dangerous attackers in the conference once again.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also added uncertainty on the recruiting front all over the college sports landscape, but Urquhart said the process of assembling his 2021 class has not been seriously hampered.
“Despite not being able to get to go out and see players in person, we feel good about our ‘21 recruiting class,” he said. “A lot of the groundwork had already been done prior to COVID, so we feel real comfortable. A lot of the kids we’re recruiting have been able to get to campus [and] we’ve been able to see them play multiple times already. So it’s just checking in to see how they’re doing, how their families are doing and just helping them to figure out if we’re the right fit for them.”
While the current situation is far from ideal, Urquhart says these strange times have brought his team closer together, and he is confident the progress will continue throughout this unusual semester.
“We have a real strong group,” he said. “[They’re] really great people, and we’re disappointed, but I know that this group will definitely make the most of the opportunity, and they’ll be ready to go once we can hit the field.”