Seton Hall’s Darby Pandolfo on being a graduate student, playing softball Covid-19

Recently passing on the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all had time to reflect on what the past year has meant and what the New Year has to offer. As Setonians, it means we have developed a new way of virtual learning and spending time away from Seton Hall and friends. For the student-athletes at Seton Hall it means something entirely different, and for Darby Pandolfo it means a second chance at finishing her softball career, the right way.

I had the chance to sit down with Pandolfo and ask her a few questions on her senior year ending short, the new age of playing softball during a pandemic, and what’s in store for her future post Graduate School and softball.

The spring season was cut short March 10, 2020. This followed a loss for the Pirates against Rutgers (4-5) and right before the girls were gearing up for the Big East tournament. Pandolfo had just got into the swing of her senior season where she would have been a strong player, starting in all 24 games with 3 homeruns. Then the season was cut short and she didn’t know what would happen next.

Kimberley Sargenti: After starting preseason off so strong, how did it feel thinking that was the end of your softball career?

Darby Pandolfo: I didn’t get told I got my year of eligibility back until a couple weeks later. When they cancelled, I was done. I was heartbroken. We were just supposed to start Big East and we were a good team and then we were told, “No, you’re done”. That’s when you’re supposed to start your life, college is over, softball is over, and now what?

Sargenti: What was the process of coming back to the team for a fifth-year as a graduate student?

Pandolfo: I had no intentions of going to grad school until my coach showed me all of the programs I could do and that if I wanted it (playing a fifth year and going to graduate school) that I could. I thought I might as well add to my resume because I didn’t think I would come out of the pandemic with a job, so I might as well finish what I started and build on it.

Sargenti: What is softball like during Covid-19?

Pandolfo: Before our season started everyone would get tested every other week (half the team one week, the other half the following week). Now that we are in season, we get tested three days before and then a rapid PCR test the day before we play an opponent.

Pandolfo shared that the team was going to play St. Joe’s week’s prior, but due to inclement weather they could not get their tests back in time and the game was cancelled.

Sargenti: How are the tests administered?

Pandolfo: We go to the training room around 7 a.m., test ourselves in front of the athletic trainers, and then have our tests back before we lift or start anything regarding practice. They are very cautious if a player doesn’t feel well, and if so they stay home.

Sargenti: Has the team had any outbreaks?

Pandolfo: Not since we started games, but in the beginning of the semester a chunk of the team was quarantined. Three girls tested positive which shut down six or seven of us. Everyone is back now and we have a full team!

Pandolfo also shared that the protocols for Covid-19 can also shut down players who are healthy. For example, Pandolfo’s housemates are on the volleyball and golf teams, and they tested positive for Covid-19. Gabby Ciancio, a housemate and teammate of Pandolfo had to quarantine due to contact tracing from close living environments. Ciancio had to quarantine for 10 days, without being allowed to workout or practice with the team. Situations like this affect players who are healthy but protocols must be followed for the safety of the entire team and Seton Hall community.

Sargenti: Do you have any plans for after graduation?

Pandolfo: I would like a job and I want to get back into advertising and graphic design, which is what my undergraduate degree is in. Hopefully things start to get back to normal.

Sargenti: Would you ever coach softball?

Pandolfo: Obviously I love playing, its not something I ever aspired to do but I would consider it if the opportunity presented it.

Sargenti: Lastly, what is one piece of advice you would give to a future Seton Hall softball player?

Pandolfo: Expect to work really hard. You are going to work extremely hard but it is going to be worth it at some point. It is not easy, and as much as you think you know what to expect you don’t, but it’s great. I came back and I would do it again!