FAIRFIELD — Allie Clark had every reason to be excited for this season with the Fairfield Ludlowe softball team. She was coming off a breakout performance that resulted in earning All-FCIAC honors as a sophomore.
Like every other high school athlete in the country, Clark never got the chance to build on her previous success.
“It was definitely heartbreaking finding out the season was canceled,” Clark said. “I had high expectations for myself. High goals. It was something I couldn’t do anything about. I know everyone else went through it too. I tried to be as positive as possible. I’m looking forward to next year at this point now.”
Clark will make her return at shortstop this weekend with her travel team, the Connecticut Legends, which has its first summer tournament, in Pennsylvania.
The game will be the same but not the atmosphere.
“I’m very excited,” Clark said. “It’s going to be a lot different though because of the new dead period with recruiting. There’s going to be no (college) coaches at our games, which is going to be super weird because there’s no in-person recruiting. I’m used to playing with coaches filled around the backstop. It’s going to be completely empty. But I am excited because it’s going to be more play to win than play to impress.”
Clark has already impressed. A two-year starter for Ludlowe, she established herself as one of the state’s top players her sophomore season, batting .460 out of the leadoff spot, with two home runs, 23 RBIs, 30 runs and a .525 on-base percentage.
The Falcons were returning a veteran team, and had high hopes to contend with league powers St. Joseph and Trumbull.
“This season we were looking at a title at least,” Clark said. “FCIACs or states. We played in a winter league that had some of the best teams in it and we were the one seed. That gave us a taste of what could have been. We had a lot of freshmen talent that just needed a little experience.”
Clark said she had put in the time to put up the numbers she did a year ago.
“All the people we were playing against I knew and had been playing against my whole life,” Clark said. “I always knew that I was up there with the better people in the FCIAC, especially the other players on my team too. I’ve been playing with the seniors this year since 6th grade. I did the work so I was really happy with how the season went.”
Clark is one of a number of athletes whose recruiting prospects are being hurt by the pandemic. She never got a junior season, perhaps the most important in the process, and now won’t get any live looks this summer.
Some teams will be streaming their games, but players won’t know who is watching. And with college seniors who missed this past season allowed to return to their schools, there will be fewer openings and scholarship money will be tighter.
Clark is hoping her next stop will be at a northeast school that has a strong balance between athletics and academics.
Softball is not the only sport on Clark’s radar. She was a key member of the Ludlowe volleyball team, which last year won the FCIAC title. The Falcons will have heavy turnover and count even more on Clark’s experience and leadership. She is optimistic.
“We started preseason already,” Clark said. “There are only three returning seniors that are on varsity at this point. That’s going to be weird because we had 11 seniors so we are going to be more bottom heavy than top heavy in terms of class. I think we can have a very successful season.”