COVID brought many changes to campus, including a special waiver that allowed four Geneseo women’s players one more season with their team.

By Maura Clark ’24

Hannah Sullivan ’22, ’23 MSEd, lost an entire season with her team due to COVID-19 cancellations. She missed playing midfield and spending time with her teammates — who are also close friends. When she discovered the NCAA was offering an eligibility waiver for a fifth year of competition to all student-athletes because of COVID-19 disruptions, she jumped on it.

“A chance to be a part of a successful soccer program and a stellar graduate program was a no-brainer,” says Sullivan, who is pursuing her master’s in reading and literacy in Geneseo’s School of Education.

Sullivan is one of four veteran players who returned to Geneseo’s women’s soccer team for a fifth season, thanks to the waiver, which was available to all students. Nicole Bell ’23, Julia Dell Aquila ’22 and Mackenzie Griffin ’22 also returned. Griffin and Dell Aquila are also studying to become teachers in the School of Education. Bell is an early childhood education major and communication minor.

“Losing a season to COVID was tough for all of us,” says Dell Aquila, who was named the 2021 SUNYAC Defensive Player of the Year. “I remember how devastated I was when I found out our junior season was canceled. Soccer has been a huge part of my life for so long. I was not ready to end my intercollegiate soccer career just yet.”

Camaraderie and friendship among teammates is a main reason Julia Dell Aquila ’22 chose to play a fifth year of Geneseo soccer. (Photo by Matt Burkhartt)

With three SUNYAC title wins within the last four seasons, including a 2021 SUNYAC Championship and NCAA Tournament entrance, the team garnered national recognition. It’s good, they say, to continue to compete. But the chemistry among teammates makes the experience so special.

“We have a great relationship with one another, and it makes playing every day that much more fun,” says Bell.

Sullivan, Dell Aquila and Griffin have lived together for four years. They cook together when possible and make sure they have a “family” brunch or dinner weekly. Teammates help each other study, provide advice and serve as confidants, even with academic and other responsibilities, she says. Every player has a “Secret Psych.”

“Every game day, we give our designated person a gift or encouraging note to fuel them for the match,” says Sullivan. “It’s not very often that you get to say your best friends are also your teammates, but I feel lucky to say that was definitely the case for me,” she adds. “The years have been spent with good players, sure, but even greater people.”

When the NCAA offered all student-athletes a fifth year of eligibility due to COVID cancellations, Geneseo soccer players (from left to right) Julia Dell Aquila ’22, Nicole Bell’ 22, Mackenzie Griffin ’22 and Hannah Sullivan ’22 jumped at the chance. (Photo by Matt Burkhartt)