Sophomore Aly Rayle was in the midst of the best season by a Cavalier pitcher since 2013 when the Hoos’ season was canceled due to CoVID-19. Rayle was 6-4 on the season with a 2.91 ERA and ranked second in the ACC in strikeouts per seven innings.
Where were you and what was your initial reaction when you learned the season was canceled?
I was with the rest of the team in the meeting room at Palmer Park when I learned our season was canceled. We were watching as other collegiate conferences and teams suspended or canceled their seasons, and we all saw the possibility coming. Nonetheless we were all devastated when we officially got the news.
My initial reaction was utter sadness and loss as I recounted all the work we’d been putting in since August to get to where we were. However, when I looked over at Riley [Wilkinson], our fifth year, I absolutely lost it. For the rest of us, the loss we felt over this season was bearable as we thought of the years we have left to play. Looking at Riley and the anguish she felt over having played her last game without having known it is what saddened me more than anything else.
What has the adjustment been like to taking online classes?
It has been a significant adjustment, especially for all of us student-athletes who are so used to having our entire schedule laid out minute by minute for us. I would say that because of how structured our daily lives normally are, the biggest adjustment has probably been having to find that structure for ourselves and figure out what works best for each of us.
How are you keeping yourself motivated and on track?
The biggest way I’m staying motivated and on track is by keeping in touch with teammates. In terms of athletic development, we’re all staying on track by FaceTiming each other as we do our workouts. When it comes to academics, it’s been helpful to keep in touch with teammates we have classes with to make sure we’re staying on track.
How are you staying in touch with teammates?
We’ve all been staying in touch with each other via GroupMe, Snapchat, Viber, Zoom, iMessage, FaceTime… the list goes on. The technology we have available to us nowadays that allows us to be connected, despite being physically separated, is incredible. My personal favorite way to stay connected with teammates has been via FaceTimes and Zoom meetings, because it’s nice to be able to speak in real time and see each other’s faces. It’s definitely hard to go from seeing each other every day to only being able to keep in touch digitally, but we’ve been creative in finding fun ways to stay connected.
Have you picked up anything new (hobby, etc.) during your spare time?
During the school year, we get so busy keeping up with our classes and athletic commitments that we don’t have as much time to read for pleasure. This break, Riley and I have taken the opportunity we have with the added free time to start reading for fun again. We’ve been trying to read one book each week, and we text each other about the books. It’s kind of like a virtual book club, which has been very fun.
You were off to a great start in the circle this season, where did you feel like your game was when the season was canceled?
Coming out of the doubleheader against Bucknell, everyone was optimistic about where the season was going and excited for the games we had ahead of us. From the start of the season, this team demonstrated grit and fight in every game. I was really looking forward to seeing how we progressed with that grittiness through the remainder of the season and how the feistiness we showed could be further developed.
As a pitcher, how are you staying in shape and continuing your growth during this time?
Without the opportunity to go to a gym, we’ve had to be a bit creative with how we workout. Our strength and conditioning coach, coach Josh [Miller], has sent us circuits that we’re able to complete at home with weights (if we have them) or household items such as water jugs if we don’t have equipment available. Additionally, the bullpen as a whole has been taking the extra time we have available now to do more cardio, and we’re excited to be able to train together and hopefully run a race together once the restrictions ease up. In terms of pitching, we’ve been creative and each of us has been trying to work with what we have available to us at home. Family has been a great help in all of this and has really assisted us by understanding our requirements in terms of working out and providing us with the space and time we need to develop.
How does this shortened season and extended period away from the field impact you as a pitcher? Is there anything you’re looking to add to your game?
This time away from the field impacts all of us very deeply by reminding us of just how much we love the game. It was painful to have our season taken away, but I think that this can impact us positively by reinvigorating the passion and intentionality we bring to every practice and every game we have the opportunity to play in. Additionally, the break gives us all a chance to develop ourselves as players and more deeply analyze areas for growth.
What do you miss most about UVA right now?
What I miss most about UVA right now is definitely my teammates. I miss getting to see them in person everyday, and I really miss being able to train with them. I especially miss our nightly dinners at JPJ Dining Hall after practice. Those dinners are consistently the highlight of my day, and I constantly cherish the opportunity to decompress our days as we eat together.
With such a young team, how do you want to see the squad handle this unprecedented circumstance?
We’re in a really unique position as a team right now in that we have most of our team returning next year. I think this circumstance is one where our youth is advantageous to us, because we have so many people returning and we can use this time to reflect on the half-season we had and look for how to grow as a team moving into next year. This circumstance allows the transition from Team 41 to Team 42 to be more gradual, as Riley and Janelle [Zellars] still check in with us and provide us with insights as we begin to bring the new first year class into the program.
Looking back on the very short time in Palmer Park this season, how nice was it to end with the first two wins in the new facility?
It was great being able to end the season with the first two wins at Palmer Park. Looking back, it’s crazy to consider how during those games, we had no idea that we were playing our last games together as Team 41. To have been able to close out on two wins is definitely something that we’re all grateful for, and it leaves off the year at Palmer Park in a great place for Team 42 to move into and build off of next year.
What do you miss most about Palmer Park?
The thing I miss the most about Palmer Park is the people inside of it. I miss being able to show up there at any time of day and hang out with everyone. The opening of Palmer Park was incredible because more than ever before it allowed us as a team to hang out and move through life together. Before, we had to be extra intentional about spending time together as a team because our lives would only cross paths when we were running from place to place. We were just beginning to enjoy the benefits of the unity and convenience that Palmer Park brought.