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Watkins’ final season gets cut short

Emmaus High School graduate Destanee Watkins was getting her final lacrosse season started this year at Kutztown University when her athletic career, and the whole world, changed over the course of a few days.

The Golden Bears had just returned from a trip to Florida for two games over their spring break when heartbreak set in. With news starting to circulate around the sports world about seasons getting canceled on Thursday, March 12, the day after KU returned to campus, there was a feeling of unease and nervousness around the program about what’s to come. The following day, their fate was announced as the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference office canceled the spring season for all of its athletic programs.

Watkins, who was one of three seniors on the Golden Bear’s roster this season, saw her career flash before her eyes.

“It was honestly heartbreaking because we thought we had so much more time,” Watkins said. “I think the worst part was not knowing that our game against Embry-Riddle (March 10) was the last game of our college career. We left Florida ready and excited to start PSAC play that Saturday. To just have our last season ripped away in a blink of an eye is something that will be hard to get over.

“I honestly at first was in denial like this isn’t true. I then really let it sink in and at that moment there are no words to describe how I was really feeling. I just broke down into tears. As for now, after letting it settle for a few days, I truly am just heartbroken and disappointed. My heart goes out to all the other seniors whose seasons also got canceled. There are no words to say how sorry I am, but we are in this together.”

Kutztown was sitting at 2-3 overall after five nonconference games to open up the 2020 campaign, including winning both games on its new Keystone Field turf. The Bears were set to begin their 12-game conference slate by hosting Bloomsburg University on Saturday, March 14.

“The confidence was 100 percent there and we were ready to get back at it Saturday and keep our home record undefeated,” said Watkins. “Even though we had lost our two games in Florida, we still were proud of the way we played considering we were able to give two amazing teams a hard fight.

With every game played you always have new things to take away from it. We knew what we needed to fix and we were ready to put the work in to get where we needed to be. This team has worked extremely hard all year and has faced some hard times, but we were ready to prove ourselves this year and show everyone what KU lacrosse is really about. We have amazing talent on this team and it’s sad that we weren’t able to show everyone in the conference what we had under our belt.”

In her four years at KU, Watkins, a team captain, was one of the Maroon and Gold’s top scoring threats the last three seasons. In her four years (52 games played), she scored 52 goals and added 23 assists. Defensively, Watkins finds herself in the KU record books for a number of different categories. She ranks second all-time in caused turnovers (92) and seventh in ground balls (146) and draw controls (96).

“Kutztown lacrosse has given me so much throughout my four years here, and the memories and friendships I have made are some that will last a lifetime,” Watkins said. “I was able to grow my game and really put my skills to the test when I was on the field. I came in as a small freshman ready to prove to everyone that I belong here, and I feel I did just that and maybe more. Being able to make some career records is always an amazing accomplishment and something I am proud of, although I wish I was able to continue to add to these records, what I was able to leave to this team will always be good enough.

“This team means the world to me and I will forever be grateful for them and for making my last season here an amazing one. They really are my second family. I also can’t thank coach Jackie Stezzi enough for coming into this program and turning it into something no one expected. She has always believed in me and has pushed and helped me to become a leader I always hoped to be for this team. I have loved all the four years I have played at Kutztown and I cannot wait to see what this team is going to prove next year.”

“From the first time I saw Destanee play,” said Stezzi, “I was impressed with her speed, athleticism, and grit. She has been a key piece to our midfield over the past three years, but stepped up her game significantly this season. In the five games we played, Destanee was a dominant force, making plays in tight situations and was truly exciting to watch. There is no doubt in my mind she would have been honored with an All-Conference nod had we been able to play.”

The future plan for Watkins is to join the workplace as she has a job waiting for her after graduation this spring.

PRESS PHOTO COURTESY OF KUTZTOWN UNIVERSITY ATHLETICSDetanee Watkins saw her senior season end abruptly after her team's early-season trip to Florida where the team went 1-2 against top competition.