Ohio State redshirt senior Danielle Wolf waits to return a serve in a match. Wolf opted not to return for an additional season of eligibility in 2020-21. Credit: Courtesy of Danielle Wolf

Ohio State women’s tennis was practicing March 12 for a home match against Michigan State when head coach Melissa Schaub received a call that indicated those preparations were no longer necessary.

Schaub said she talked to the Spartan coaching staff earlier that morning to confirm that the team was on its way, but hours later the message took on a different tone.

“It all changed so quickly. It went from, ‘Everything is good for the weekend,’ to getting a call in the middle of practice, ‘Nothing official yet, but kinda going this direction,’ and then I would say about 2 o’clock or 2:30 that afternoon, getting the word that that’s what the Big Ten had decided to do,” Schaub said.

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Big Ten Conference canceled all remaining conference and nonconference competition for the 2020 spring and summer seasons. Following this decision, the NCAA allowed programs to grant an extra year of eligibility to spring athletes, and Ohio State didn’t hesitate. 

That opportunity was not a silver lining for redshirt senior Danielle Wolf, though.

“I was a fifth-year this year,” Wolf said. “I’m 23, and it was a really tough decision. I’ve already extended school a year and a half over what I was on track to graduate. So I made the really tough decision that I am not going to be coming back, unfortunately. I don’t like to say that out loud.”

Wolf was the only senior on the women’s tennis roster this year, part of the No. 2 team in the nation. The players were preparing to make a run at what would have been the third conference tournament title in school history.

“One of our previous goals was winning the Big Ten championship and conference. I think we put ourselves in a good position to do that,” Wolf said.

It wasn’t just team goals that Wolf saw evaporate with COVID-19. She had personal goals in mind as well — Wolf said she had always wanted to be an All-American, and with an NCAA tournament appearance and two victories, she would have accomplished that feat.

When the season ended, however, the inability to accomplish those aspirations weighed heavily on the team and Wolf.

“We all had goals and I think this year, we were really prepared to reach a lot of those,” Wolf said. “We did a lot of incredible things, and it was just really disappointing that we couldn’t have followed through and proved to the nation that we could back up everything that we had done so far and just keep rolling.”

After Schaub called the players into the locker room to deliver the news, she said she felt uncertainty in the decision to end the season. However, looking back now, she’s grateful.

“At the time, it seemed devastating,” Schaub said. “We actually just had a meeting with the team and looking back on it, we feel like we did it for the better. It’s definitely a bigger issue than sports right now and our tennis season.”

Wolf said she is grateful for what she was able to take away from this campaign and her career as a Buckeye.

“Ohio State is known for developing careers. I like to think mine has really developed since I was in school there,” Wolf said. “And just that you don’t have any limits. A lot of times, people will think that you can’t do a lot of things you have and will end up doing. I think it’s really important to believe you’ll be able to do anything, which I think is something I really took advantage of.”