Safe at home takes on new meaning in 2020


Prasham Jobanputra

Coach Torresani and the North Penn softball team are among all the other high school teams in the nation, that have had their season come to a halt with the ongoing coronavirus.

For spring sports players and coaches, they train and work extremely hard through the offseason to prepare for their sports at the end of the school year.  For them, they can’t wait until the grass gets a little greener and the pavement starts to warmup so they can be on their field/court every day after school.  But, spring is here and no one is on their field, including the North Penn softball team.

“For the coaching staff, specifically for me, it’s tough.  We look forward to this every year.  We work hard, just as the players do, to get ready for a season and then out of nowhere, all the sudden it stops.  You have your mind, you have your body geared to what you have to do for six days out of the seven days of practice and arranging everything and you look forward to it.  I know myself, that I look forward to being with the team, being with the girls, being with the coaches, they’re family.  Now all of the sudden, you don’t have that part of your family with you and it’s hard.  The coaches have shed some tears and I know the girls have.  They were very much looking forward to this year and they had a lot of goals and achievable goals,” Head Coach Rick Torresani said.

Prasham Jobanputra
Mady Volpe, North Penn’s star pitcher, enters her junior year in the circle.

And those were some pretty high achieving goals they had, but like Coach Torresani said, they were achievable.  The Knights had won 4 of the last 5 conference championships and made it to the district final last year.  The last two years, they got to the state quarterfinals each year.  The Knights are very much a favorite to hold up the state championship trophy at the end of the year, but because of the ongoing coronavirus situation, they might never even have a chance to play in a possibly magical season.

“That’s the probably the hardest thing on these kids and the coaching staff because this year we felt it.  It doesn’t happen often when you feel a team has that ability, that leadership, and the family atmosphere that all these kids were bringing to the program.  I know Kevin [Manero] (North Penn’s baseball head coach) had it a few years and then they went on to win the state and other coaches have had it but this year, this team had that.  They say they had ‘it.’  It’s hard to explain what ‘it’ is, but they had ‘it.’  They were ready, they were geared to go, they had been working hard and they were all in it together from the thirtieth player all the way to the first player and that’s the hard part, that they knew it.  They knew good things were coming and it was taken away so fast at a specific moment,” Coach Torresani explained.

2019 All-State pitcher, Mady Volpe, was hoping to help continue the success that the Knights have had and help them get even further this year.

“I was really excited for this season because of the leadership from Amanda [Greaney] and Victoria [Juckniewitz].  The whole entire team, JV and varsity, got along really well.  Our goals for this season were to win the conference, win in districts, and win states,” Volpe said.

The coronavirus had been making news for a while, but it didn’t hit home for many until Thursday, March 12th.  And when Torresani tuned into KYW heading to practice that Thursday and Governor Wolf ordered schools to close down, he knew it was going to be a difficult practice emotionally.

“After listening and hearing the makeup of the virus, I gathered them together.  They came down to the field basically thinking they were getting a two-week vacation from school and knowing what was going on and making a few phone calls before I sat down with them, I was upfront with them and told them that this might be our last practice.  This might be the last time we get together as a team because we don’t know what the future is going to hold and if the virus is as bad as some people are saying, we may be inside for a while, in our homes, and they took it pretty hard.  That’s going to hit, especially the seniors.  They took it real hard,” Torresani described.

The PIAA hasn’t canceled the spring sports season yet, and hopefully never have to, so the players are still trying to get better every day and stay ready to go.

“I’ve been working out every day and I plan to do more softball specific work as the weather gets nicer.  Right now, I am trying to stay positive about getting to play at least a few games for our season,“ the senior captain, Juckniewitz, said.

The captains for the 2020 North Penn Knights, catcher Amanda Greaney and shortstop Victoria Juckniewitz. Greaney (left) will play softball at Lehigh University next year and Juckniewitz (right) will play at Jefferson University.

Fellow senior captain and catcher, Greaney, added, “I have been holding out hope ever since the quarantine started back in mid March.  Obviously it’s not easy to keep up our skills because gyms and batting cages are closed, but I’ve been doing everything possible within my backyard.  That includes hitting off a tee, doing at home workouts, and sometimes being creative with training.  I’ve even been squatting my dog to ensure I don’t lose my strength.  I know we are all working hard because we need to be physically and mentally ready for a season to start in May.”

Even though they might not be seeing each other face-to-face, the coaching staff is trying their best to help the players stay ready for the season.

“I’ve been emailing them and giving them things to do, but we had one zoom chat early, about a week after or four five days after we had our last practice just to see how they were doing, just to let them know that they continue to train as best as they can and try to have a catch with their dad or mom in the backyard.  Some of the girls have hitting tees and batting cages in their backyard and they’re using them,” Coach Torresani said.

Then this past Wednesday, they had another zoom meeting, but this one was different.

“That chat really affected me and the coaches because we could see the girls and how much this is affecting them.  They were not as chatty, they were not laughing a lot.  I guess they are getting used to being at home and not going anywhere.  It was tough to see.  The coaches all got together afterwards and talked about it and realized this was a lot more than I think anyone expected and it’s tough on them and we could see it in their eyes,” Torresani explained.

This situation is hard on everyone, but especially on the seniors, who can’t come back and play another year.  For senior Madison Reilly, this season was going to be her last time playing competitive softball.

“Honestly it means so much to me, knowing that this year was the last year I will ever put cleats back on or step onto a field to play the game that I love.  It’s very disappointing because it’s something that we all look forward to all year and work so hard for in the offseason just for it to get ripped away from all of us,” the Knights outfielder said.

Prasham Jobanputra
Senior Madison Reilly settles under a fly ball. Reilly won’t be continuing her softball career after this season and will attend West Chester University.

If the season is to start at some point, the question will become, how much did social distancing affect the players.

“When we do get back or if we do get back, it’s not going to be matter of are they going to be able to field a ground ball, are they going to be able to hit, is Mady going to be able to pitch well or any of our pitchers going to pitch well.  The main thing is getting these kids back into an environment that they’ve known since they were six or seven years old.  Back to an environment, as we always preach, for the two or three hours on the field, all the other stuff that’s around you, the tests you gotta take, the test you maybe didn’t do well on, or you had a fight with your boyfriend, for these two or three hours, you can just block that out and just have fun and that’s my goal, to get these girls back on that softball field and just having fun being together, win or lose.  These kids are going to fight and they’re going to win, they’re going to be so excited to get back out there and they’re so talented that they’re going to do well,” Torresani said.

We’ve been hearing a lot about how this is going to be a life lesson.  Most people probably can’t understand that lesson yet, but Coach Torresani leaves this message, that one day it will.

“Just keep working hard, try to stay positive through this.  Try to understand that things happen in life that you don’t understand and eventually hopefully you will understand and then learn from it.  But right now, it’s hard to see that.  I’m an old guy, so I’ve been through 9/11, I’ve been through all the stuff during Vietnam, when I was kid even through the polio thing, and it’s hard to understand a lot of that stuff, but eventually you will and things will hopefully workout, but this is something that no one expected and hopefully that will happen.  But I try and tell the girls to just keep it on a day to day basis, don’t try to think too far ahead because you really can’t.   Just day to day, keep doing what you’re doing, don’t look too far into the future and let’s keep praying that everything turns out positive,”