Mendoza excited about second senior year


Courtesy of Summer Mendoza

Summer Mendoza poses for her senior year with the Farleigh Dickinson Knights softball team.

 

Former Liberty softball standout Summer Mendoza just finished playing in the Farleigh Dickinson softball home opener and two days later, her world crashed in on her.

Mendoza went 1-for-4 with a run scored in a March 11 one-run loss to St. John’s University. Two days later, she found out her senior season was over right as it was starting.

“We had practice on a Friday and our coach said we were having a fun practice,” Mendoza said. “I was confused because we had a tournament that weekend in Baltimore. I was wondering why we are having a fun practice if we have a tournament that weekend. We all went about it and had the fun practice. We were about to finish practicing and girls were saying our season was going to get canceled. I was saying, no way, I don’t believe that. After our coaches pulled us aside, one of my coaches started crying. Immediately, I just knew it. I had a bad feeling about something. Sure enough, they told us that our season had been canceled. They said we had to get out of the dorms immediately. Our team started to book flights home and packing up our dorm rooms.”

Mendoza and the Knights were set to play doubleheaders against Morgan State and University of Maryland, Baltimore County that weekend, but like the rest of the nation, collegiate spring sports were canceled for the year.

“I was in shock. I don’t think I talked to anybody for 24 hours because I was so upset about it. I didn’t know what was going to be the next step. I felt like I lost a lot of hope in that moment. I thought my last game was two days ago and was really upset. As time went on and things have changed, I’m still able to get that opportunity to play again. I’m very thankful, but I really wish we could have played this season and shoot for that ring.”

Since that time, the NCAA ruled that seniors would be getting their year of eligibility and scholarship back, which ended up bring a bright spot for Mendoza.

“Initially, I knew I wanted to pursue my master’s,” she said. “It was a blessing in disguise that I’m able to get money to get my master’s. At first, I was a little ambiguous of even taking the opportunity because it is expensive to go to this school. I was scared of what my parents would say and how they would feel. I wondered what was going to be my next step. After talking it over with my family, knowing I wanted to pursue my master’s, I was grateful. When my coach gave me the opportunity to come back, I was all for it. This is a group of girls I wanted to graduate with, a group of girls I want to play my senior year with. I knew I wanted to come back. Eventually, things were able to work out. My coach was able to offer me a scholarship for that. It’s been a roller coaster. It’s good as of now.”

Mendoza is still in Hackensack, New Jersey, a stone’s throw away from the Farleigh Dickinson campus. She said she will remain there to complete an internship, look for a summer job and prepare for next season.

“I will be working on my master’s this year,” she said. “It’s a 36-credit program and it only takes 18 months, but I’m going to get that down to a year. I’m going to graduate in May with my bachelor’s in criminal justice. But there’s no graduation ceremonies. It’s been crazy.

“I think I will stay in new Jersey and work with my coaches. I have the facility over here that are open and free, which is right across the street. I like it out here. I plan on staying out here and not heading back to the Ranchos.”

Mendoza said she is about a 15 minute drive away from Times Square in New York City, the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. She says she is safe and healthy, but wishes she could be doing something.

“It’s super nice, but there’s crappy winter and it’s something to get through,” she said. “I really enjoy it out here. It’s nothing like the winters back home.”

While getting ready to play in Baltimore, the rest of the Farleigh Dickinson campus was on spring break. It was over that time it was announced the semester was over.

“They announced we were off for a week after spring break and we were to do online learning,” Mendoza said. “They came out two days later and they canceled my graduation. It was one thing on top of another. It was a difficult time to get through. I’m here, though. Everything is better now.”

After riding the roller coaster of highs and lows, Mendoza is on the high part of the coaster knowing she will be able to come back for her senior year.

“I never pictured my senior year to go like this, but of course, no one does,” she said. “It’s been, honestly, stuff you have to go through. I’m thankful that I have sports that helped me get through adversity and grow as an individual. I feel like this is another thing that will help me grow as a person.”

Mendoza will pursue a master’s in criminal justice with a concentration in youths with the ultimate goal of opening a non-profit to help kids who are struggling with at-home life or who cant afford any type of help.

“I want to work within a company that helps kids get out of trouble,” she said. “I want to work with youths. I’m very passionate about it and kids are my main focus. I want to do some kind of social work to get kids help. I want to be a mentor. I have done three or four internships and they have concentrated on the youths and kids going through the juvenile system. It’s eye-opening to give back to those kids.”

Mendoza and her Liberty teammate Ana Hayes ventured to the East Coast in 2016 after record-setting careers with the Hawks. However, after one year, Hayes returned to Madera, but Mendoza stayed, although she had thoughts of returning home, as well. She said that decision to stay was the best decision she has ever made.

“I would like to say that I have grown tremendously in the past years of being at this school. I went through a lot of stuff my first year here. Stats-wise, everything was great. Team chemistry wasn’t good. I wanted to go home and didn’t think I wanted to come back to this school. I’m so happy I did and I was able to meet a new coach, go through a new system with new girls. I was named captain for my senior season. It was very exciting. I feel like I have grown as a woman and that has been through the help of people who teach here who have mentored me. They have helped me grow as an individual.”

Mendoza is happy with her decision to go to school on the East Coast.

“I thank (Liberty coach) Bob Barber every day for turning me around to be a slapper,” Mendoza said. “It’s almost a whole different world coming from the Ranchos to going to Texas Tech to play. I’m really grateful to be able to do this kind of stuff. It’s opened me to a whole new world you don’t get at the Ranchos.”

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