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Just one more game.

You’ve probably heard a former student-athlete — at some point — who says they wish they could put on the pads, run another race or take another shot against a rival team just one more time.

Next year, 18 Marietta College senior athletes will compete in an extra season as they take advantage of the NCAA’s ruling to grant all student-athletes an extra year of eligibility because of the impact COVID-19 had on each team. Each student-athlete was encouraged to speak with their coaches, family and the College’s Student Financial Services team before deciding.

“It was important that they stay compliant with the NCAA rules about financial aid,” says Emily Schuck, Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Management. “Students are reviewed on a case-by-case basis to determine the number of credit hours needed to complete their degrees. We have seen a range of scenarios from students needing one class to students needing a full-time schedule in one semester.”

Leading the way at Marietta are five seniors returning in the fall to play football.

Bobby Cashaw ’21, who has earned All-Ohio Athletic Conference honors in four consecutive seasons, is excited for the opportunity to play tight end for Coach Andy Waddle and the Pioneers in a fifth season.

“I took a moment to think about it, but once I realized I could come back for one semester and play an entire 10-game regular season I wanted to full take advantage of the opportunity,” he says.

Marietta’s football team did play a five-game spring schedule and finished 3-2 — making a strong case for being the third-best team in the OAC. Shortened or altered seasons and the lack of a true postseason impacted all the fall and winter sports. Other than rowing, all the teams were limited to conference play only in the regular season.

Hailey Fuller ’22 transferred to Marietta after her sophomore year at West Virginia State University and needed an extra semester to complete her degree requirements for Biology. She didn’t hesitate to play an additional season of volleyball for Coach Kristy Newman.

“If (the NCAA) would have counted last season against eligibility, I would have probably sat out the shortened spring season and just played in the fall,” Fuller says. “I love all of my teammates and I love being a part of this team. We did so well in the OAC, and I just wanted to come back more than anything. This is a great opportunity for me, and I know it is not for everyone.”

Spring 2021 Fifth-Year Student-Athletes

Baseball: Brady Cottom and Seamus Kenneally
Softball: Maicy Kirk (Psychology graduate student)
Women’s Lacrosse: Shannon Doyle (Division I transfer who enrolled in the Physician Assistant Graduate Program)

Expected Fifth-Year  Student-Athletes for  2021–22

Baseball: Trent Castle, Isaac Danford, Turner Hill and Damian Yenzi
Men’s Basketball: Jason Ellis, Tim Kreeger and Jake Montgomery
Men’s Rowing: George Riffle, John Saunders and Michael Shrader
Track: Kaitlin Kobuszewski
Football: Bobby Cashaw, Kyle Gallagher, Gage Giovengo, Robert Nelson and Tay Pryor
Women’s Soccer: Theresa LaGreca
Volleyball: Hailey Fuller

Track & field standout Kaitlin Kobuszewski ’21 won’t return to competition until spring, when she tries to achieve her goal of reaching the NCAA Tournament in the javelin.

“It wasn’t quite a no-brainer for me, but I spoke with my parents and they supported my decision to keep competing for another season,” says Kobuszewski, who also participates in the long jump and 100 and 200 meters. “I love Marietta and I stayed all of last summer. Now I get to do it again. I’m OK with waiting another year before getting a full-time job. This gives me another year to figure it out.”

Kobuszewski will take one class in the spring — Applied Regression Analysis — to complete her degree in Economics.

It’s not just the seniors who benefit. Simply put, this season didn’t count against any student-athlete’s eligibility.

“There is a strong possibility that we will have 10 to 20 student-athletes over the next four years who take advantage of the extra year of eligibility,” says Marietta’s Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Larry Hiser.

Marietta had four student-athletes on rosters this spring who benefited from the NCAA restoring eligibility for all spring athletes who had their seasons cut short when the pandemic started in March 2020.

Men’s basketball has three returners, including OAC Player of the Year Jason Ellis ’21. However, veteran coach Jon VanderWal almost had four seniors returning. At one point, Kyle Matoszkia ’21 did consider coming back for an extra season, and that decision was made even harder after the men’s basketball team rolled to a 12-1 season and another Ohio Athletic Conference championship.

“The reason was the many friends and experiences I have had throughout the last four years. I knew how great of a year we had, and thinking about how far we could have gone made me want to come back and see what we could accomplish next year,” says Kyle, who graduated in May with a Bachelor of Science degree in Petroleum Engineering. “I thought about everything for a good while; then I slowly realized that I am ready for the next step in my life. I made a lot of great memories, friends and people I consider family at Marietta. I’ll cherish these memories forever, but I am ready for the next chapter.”

VanderWal believes the decision to stay for another season or start a career was a personal decision that every student-athlete had to make on their own.

“This is a very complex situation,” he says. “First, I believe every student-athlete deserves the opportunity to come back and play next season. They all came back this year not knowing what was going to transpire, or even if we would get to play. For us, our guys got a total of 13 games in front of no fans, and we didn’t get a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament.”

Now for that complex part he was talking about.

“We get some really good guys back for another year, which means there are some players who may have gotten more playing time next season who won’t now,” VanderWal says. “We also have our largest recruiting class, so we have to figure out how it’s going to work on our roster.”

Other coaches will face challenges as well, but for now the student-athletes who are deciding to return are excited about the possibilities. Cashaw, for example, has played in 35 career games and he realizes how special it will be if plays in all 10 next year.

“I don’t think there is anyone who has played at Marietta who can say they played in 45 football games in their career,” says Cashaw, who will earn a degree in Sport Management. “There was a time that we weren’t sure we’d get to play any games. Those five games felt like a preview to what we will see this fall. I think we’ll be even better because the coaches worked with all of us, and we had more practice time. It’s a short turnaround, but we’re all ready to play.”

- Tom Perry