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Seniors discuss thoughts on extra year of NCAA eligibility

Three senior athletes share plans for the future after new NCAA eligibility ruling

In light of the cancellation of many fall athletic seasons and all Ivy League fall sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA granted fall student-athletes an additional year of athletic eligibility. Three Brown senior student-athletes spoke with The Herald about their plans regarding their newly awarded extra year to engage in college athletics.

For women’s soccer defender and captain Sydney Cummings ’21, the pandemic paused her momentum from last season. After garnering All-Ivy honors every year since joining the team, Cummings helped the Bears capture the 2019 Ivy League Championship and compete in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1994. This performance earned Cummings national recognition as she earned both First Team All-Ivy honors and Second Team All-America laurels. 

Although the cancellation of her final season at Brown was disappointing to Cummings and her teammates, it resulted in an opportunity for her to be recruited by top soccer programs as a future graduate transfer. Since Ivy League student-athletes can only compete as undergraduates, Cummings will be joining a team outside the Ivy League for her final year of athletic eligibility. “I owe so much to (Brown’s) program,” she said. “All of my coaches and teammates have helped me get here, so any opportunity I have is credit to this program. Brown will always have a place in my heart.” 

After capturing the Ivy League Championship last season, Cummings had the opportunity to play in front of the top college coaches at the NCAA Tournament. Little did she know that this exposure to national soccer programs would be beneficial during the graduate transfer process. Cummings emphasized her continued commitment to soccer in light of the cancellation of her final fall season at Brown. “I don’t feel finished. Feeling unfulfilled is a hard way to end my soccer career.” 

According to Cummings, the decision to continue her career as a student-athlete is a logical next step. “Brown has given me the tools to improve,” she said. “To get another degree and continue to improve in soccer? That is a no-brainer.”

Her teammate, Goalkeeper Kayla Thompson ’21.5, brings a unique perspective to women’s soccer. A transfer from West Virginia University, Thompson made an immediate impact on the field for the Bears last season. She ranked sixth in the NCAA in save percentage and notched a season-high seven saves in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Her 2019 performance earned First Team All-Ivy honors along with the team’s Ridgely Most Valuable Player Award. 

Thompson spoke to The Herald about her experience as a Bear. “I loved my teammates, the environment and the school. I loved playing for the coaching staff at Brown. The team is incredible.”

Thompson chose to stay in Providence and take this semester off from academics and athletics so she would be able to compete for Brown next fall as a second-semester senior.

“I was not looking to transfer again. I tried to stretch my (time at Brown) because I have really enjoyed playing here,” Thompson told The Herald.

Senior right-side hitter Eliza Grover ’21 was set to enter her final season on the women’s volleyball team after earning Honorable Mention All-Ivy honors for the second straight year. As a junior, Grover was one of three Bears to play in all 23 matches and all 87 sets of team competition. Among Ivy League players, she ranked eighth on the season in hitting percentage. 

Grover revealed her growing passion for volleyball since arriving at Brown. “Over the past three years, I have grown to love the sport even more. I have loved the team and the competition. … I’m very grateful.”

Since she does not plan to attend graduate school next year, Grover does not see herself using an extra year of NCAA eligibility. As a cognitive neuroscience concentrator, Grover is exploring different paths in the medical field, some of which may require enrollment in a post-baccalaureate program. The intensity of this curriculum would leave little time for Grover to continue her competitive athletic career.

Regardless of her athletic and academic decisions, Grover remains thankful for her time in the Brown volleyball program and supports her fellow Bears as they look to continue their athletic endeavors. “I am very excited for them. … It makes me want to play as well.”


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