BYU softball’s Rylee Jensen-McFarland was having a career year when season stopped. Will she and other seniors be back?
(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune)
Utah Utes host the BYU Cougars, NCAA softball in Salt Lake City, Wednesday April 18, 2018. BYU's Rylee Jensen.
Two weeks ago, Rylee Jensen-McFarland and the rest of the BYU softball team were in Tuscaloosa, ready to face No. 10 Alabama in the opening game of the T-Town Showdown.
The Cougars were set to also face two other opponents, including No. 3 Texas, over the weekend.
But before anything could even start, everything was canceled.
“It’s like I don’t know what to do with my life,” the senior from Idaho Falls said
Even though Jensen-McFarland is back in Idaho with her husband Darius McFarland and her family, she’s still been struggling with a sports-less world.
Although gyms and training facilities have started to close down nationwide, Jensen-McFarland can't just quit sports. So, she's resorted to watching film.
“I’m still trying to learn because I don’t know what’s next for me,” Jensen-McFarland said. “But even my whole family, I have three brothers and a sister — and even my husband, we don’t know what to watch on TV. We don’t know what to do because there’s no sports. I never envisioned a world without sports because I’ve just had it my whole life.”
For Jensen-McFarland, this was going to be the year.
Coming off a career-best .381 hitting season last year, the outfielder was hitting .441 nearly midway through this season, while slugging .838 and earning a .518 on base percentage — both career-bests. She ranked No. 1 in all three stats among all seniors in program history before the season was suspended after 23 games.
After coming close to breaking into the All-American list over her career, this was the year she wanted to make sure to get the national recognition. But it won't come this year.
“That's honestly, that's the hardest part for me because I set my goals for me,” Jensen-McFarland said. “I feel like, that's what's so hard for me, I was doing so well. And it's just so frustrating.”
Jensen-McFarland will also miss out on some of the games she was most looking forward to, like the rivalry game against Utah or the exhibition game against Team Mexico in the Bear Down Fiesta that was scheduled to take place this weekend in Tucson.
But what might hurt the most is that the Cougars were finally finding their groove, just in time for the start of West Coast Conference play, when the rest of the season was canceled.
“The last year we lost pitching, this year we had really, really strong pitching,” Jensen-McFarland said. “And in the beginning of the year our bats weren't clicking, but I feel like our bats started to click right when they were taken away from us.”
However, knowing how strong the BYU squad was and how strong the Cougars will continue to be next year is possibly the main reason Jensen-McFarland could decide to come back to Provo. The Cougars have routinely been able to make it to the NCAA Regionals, but have struggled to make it to the Super Regionals
Next season, BYU could be a College World Series team, Jensen-McFarland believes.
The NCAA has announced it will grant spring student athletes relief for a season of eligibility, although the details have not yet been disclosed.
Jensen-McFarland hasn't quite decided on whether or not she should come back, but hopes to come to a conclusion over the next couple of weeks. Either way, it's been a decision that has caused her a lot of back-and-forth thought.
“I don't know, I just feel like part of me is like my time at BYU has come and gone and I need to let somebody else go in and do their thing,” Jensen-McFarland said. “And also a part of me is like, I definitely have unfinished business.”
While not yet a hard yes, she is leaning more toward coming back for a redo of her senior season.
“I feel like I’ve left my mark at BYU, but I want there to be no question who I was,” Jensen-McFarland said. “Not only what kind of athlete I was, but what kind of person I was.”