Winona State softball: Two-time All-American catcher Alison Nowak to exercise extra season of eligibility
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Winona State softball: Two-time All-American catcher Alison Nowak to exercise extra season of eligibility

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Alison Nowak’s catcher’s gear was starting to collect dust.

The Winona State senior backstop had not strapped it on since she walked off the field after playing the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown March 13 in Jan Phyl Village, Florida. Like it appeared for Jordyn Kleman, it felt like the last game in a storied career.

What a difference 2½ weeks make.

The NCAA confirmed Monday that Division II spring sport athletes — like Nowak — will be granted another season of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This had been something that had been in the works over the course of these two-plus weeks, as the NCAA and administrations hammered out details such as available scholarship money.

For Nowak, that’s where it became a bit foggy. If it was up to the two-time All-American and 2020 NSIC preseason player of the year who was on pace to break the all-time hits record, the answer was a resounding yes.

The only problem was that it wasn’t up to her.

It had to first be determined that she would have scholarship money for next year. She loves softball, but it just simply did not make fiscal sense if she came back to just compete.

“I didn’t want to just come back for softball, but not have it make any sense in other aspect, you know?” Nowak said. “I just wanted to make sure I could work that out, as well.”

She found out Saturday that it was a possibility, but she needed confirmation on other moving parts, specifically when it came to financials. For Nowak, it came down to how to pay for another semester of school.

Nowak was set to graduate in December 2020 after she student taught in the Fall of 2020. To help pay for that semester, Nowak had applied for and received academic scholarships because the money from her softball scholarship only covers her if she has eligibility left. With the softball scholarship confirmed to be back in the fold, in addition to the academic scholarships, it paved the way for her to come back to Winona for one last semester to play softball.

“It’s been exciting to see this all come together,” said Nowak. “We just kept getting more and more answers as the week went on, felt good to finally get some good news.”

It’s an big lift for the Warriors.

Nowak has batted better than .400 every year of her career and currently sits with a career batting average of .468 after going 26-for-51 in the first 19 games of this season. The program record is .422. She also has her eyes set on the all-time hits record (293), as she sits at 214.

Those records are great, but the fact that she gets to come back with Kleman and Katie Kolb makes it that much more special. Just a little while ago, all three thought their respective careers were over and now they get another year together.

“Knowing that I will be getting to do this with two of my best friends makes this even more exciting,” Nowak said. “We are trying to look at housing options to see if we can all live together. It will be so much fun to do this with them.”

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