Spirit Squads React to Premature Ending of MAAC Tournament

by Madalyn Johnson & Kelly Kennedy, Web Editor & Asst. Production Editor

Manhattan College’s men’s basketball team was fortunate enough to play at last week’s MAAC tournament before its abrupt cancellation on March 12th due to the coronavirus outbreak. The tournament was held for the first time at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, instead of Albany, New York, where it has taken place in previous years. The Manhattan College Jasper Dancers, cheerleaders, and pep band also attended to cheer on both teams despite the rapid schedule change.

On Thursday morning, before the tournament was shut down permanently later that afternoon, the spirit teams decided to get a head start out of Atlantic City following an announcement from the MAAC on Wednesday night regarding the tournament’s plans to proceed with only family members of players and essential media in attendance. 

“We were told that due to the increasing number of coronavirus cases, the tournament board members had decided for everyone’s safety to send us home” says freshman Marisol Gindhart, an MC cheerleader. “They wanted to decrease the number of people that could be exposed.”

Despite the inevitability of their departure, it is no surprise that no one was very happy about the sudden change in plans. The MAAC tournament is something the spirit teams have worked towards and anticipated since the beginning of the academic year, and it is especially sad that their seasons had to end this way. 

The spirit squad members were excited about the tournament’s move to Atlantic City this year because of the prospect of performing close to the beach. After weeks and months of rehearsal, they were ready to show off their skills. 

The Manhattan College Jasper Dancers learn between seven to ten dances and practice three days a week starting in early September. Kaitlyn Marquette, coach of the Jasper Dancers, shared that the sudden news for all Manhattan College students to evacuate campus the week before spring break surprisingly didn’t set back the team in any way. 

“I wouldn’t say it affected our trip in any way,” Marquette said. “My team was extremely excited to attend the MAAC tournament, and they weren’t going to let the news change that or hinder their experience as a team.”

Understandably, the early cancellation of the tournament was hard for the team to handle, according to Marquette. Deep down they knew there was a good chance they would not be able to perform again as a team.

“The team was absolutely devastated when they found out,” Marquette said. “Nothing can prepare you for the ‘last time dancing as a team’. It came as a shock to them and my heart was broken, especially for the seniors that will never get this experience back.”

The pep band joins the Jasper Dancers in heartbreak over the tournament’s abrupt ending. 

I was really sad, but I really felt bad for our seniors,” junior pep band member Mia Serrano said. “They worked so hard to have their last season cut short. The rest of us were just really sad. However, we’re just trying to stay positive throughout all this.  All of us were so thankful for the short time we did get in Atlantic City.”

With the basketball season now over and the pandemic in full swing, all three spirit squads will have to wait until next season to perform again. And despite this unfortunate ending to the season,  Gindhart knows social distancing is essential at this time.

“We were sad about leaving the tournament early but we understand that at this time some very difficult decisions had to be made,” says Gindhart. “The pandemic as a whole is a very scary thing to me because it is so unpredictable. Every case seems to be different and no one is sure how to really prevent the spread of the virus or how to treat it. I hope that by having everyone in quarantine we can give our medical providers more time to figure out the best course of treatment.”