Mizzou Still Awaiting NCAA Decision On 2021 Postseason Ban
The Missouri softball program is currently playing the waiting game, as the NCAA has yet to make a decision about the Tigers' postseason fate for 2021.
Mizzou's head softball coach Larissa Anderson spoke with reporters on a Zoom call late last week and indicated that the university had not yet heard from the NCAA regarding a decision about next season.
Last November, Anderson had to deliver the most difficult bit of news to her team in her coaching tenure to date: the Tigers had been banned from the postseason by the NCAA for the 2020 season. That meant they were out of contention for an SEC Tournament title, as well as a spot in the NCAA Tournament this spring.
We now know, of course, that the 2020 postseason will not take place due to COVID-19's recent cancellation of the second half of the college softball season. That leaves the Tigers, who finished 2020 with a 19-7 record and the No. 17 ranking in SA's final 2020 Division I Top 25, in limbo.
Despite the ban the program faced in 2020, Missouri put together one of the better seasons in the program's recent history. In the shortened campaign, the Tigers won four games against teams that ended their season in SA's top 25, as they defeated No. 8 Oklahoma State, No. 18 Virginia Tech, No. 21 Minnesota and No. 24 Baylor. Missouri, which opened 2020 on a nine-game winning streak, also finished tied for first in the SEC after sweeping this year's opening series of conference play against Ole Miss.
"We're fighting every single game and we're proving to ourselves and to our alumni and to our fanbase that we're here to play ball," Anderson told Softball America early in the 2020 season. "We're going to put the best product we can on the field."
While the Tigers will be without their lone senior from 2020, Eli Daniel, who decided to forego the extra year of eligibility the NCAA extended to all Division I spring student-athletes, they will return a slew of top performers from this season. That includes SA's 2020 Shortened Season All-American Cayla Kessinger, who had an inspiring comeback season after missing the 2019 campaign due to thoracic outlet syndrome.
"I went about this season a lot differently," Kessinger, a redshirt junior, told reporters on a Zoom call last week. "I took everything I went through last year and everything I learned off the field and played for something so much bigger than just softball."
For Anderson and other SEC coaches who may be tasked with managing abnormally large rosters over the next few seasons, things may get a little tricky going forward. Anderson stated on last week's call that some teams are looking at carrying up to 35 student-athletes next season, which means the financial impact of the shortened 2020 season will be felt for years to come in college softball.
Regardless of that fact, the Tigers have their sights set on a time when they can compete for championships, which they hope will be in 2021.