Former UNCW student-athletes speak in aftermath of Hurricane Florence

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Former UNCW student-athletes speak in aftermath of Hurricane Florence

Brandon Sans, Sports Editor

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Hurricane Florence devastated Wilmington, a place many students call home during their time at UNC Wilmington. The Seahawk reached out to former Seahawk athletes who believe part of community’s recovery will take place through sports in the weeks and months ahead:

Lyberty Anderson, Women’s golf (2016-2018)

“Wilmington isn’t my former home; it is my home. My fiancée and I have settled down in Wilmington and started our life together. It’s a very scary feeling being away and not knowing what awaits when you return. I know that Wilmington is a resilient place and we’ll all pull together stronger than ever after this. This is a disaster and it will not be recovered in the blink of an eye. I do know by faith that God doesn’t present us with any challenges he knows we cannot face and I believe that Wilmington and UNCW are resilient enough to come back from this. It won’t be easy, but it’s possible. I anticipate that sports will play a major role in the emotional and psychological recovery of Wilmington. Hurricane Florence impacted our region in many ways, but I believe that once UNCW athletes are able to take the course, courts and fields again, they will fight for their community and show them what Seahawks and Wilmingtonians are made of.”

Sydney Brock, Volleyball (2014-2017)

“I was just in shock when I saw Wilmington on the news. Hurricane Florence had completely violated my second home. I also was thinking of the amazing seniors on the UNCW volleyball team and how this is going to impact their season. I’m devastated for our little beach town. The people of Wilmington are some of the best people I have had the privilege of meeting and I hope that the city is able to bounce back from this. UNCW sports is going to play a very important role, sports bring a certain amount of energy to a community and they have the ability to bring people together which will be needed as the town starts to rebuild.”

Erin Brown, Softball (2013-2016)

“I was in Charleston, but I still consider Wilmington one of my homes. I still have friends there and my older brother is in Wilmington. To think of my second home getting destroyed made me sick. Not to mention how it’s going to affect my brother, UNCW students and athletic community. Seeing photos I’m in shock. It doesn’t seem real. To see places that I loved and once enjoyed destroyed blows my mind. Wilmington is such a strong, tight knit community I know that a stronger bounce back is inevitable. People are going to do what it takes to take care of the city that they love.”

Bennett Clark, Club Ice Hockey (2014-2018)

“I’m currently living in Raleigh, so that’s where I was when it made landfall. Obviously, it is a tough time for the community after an event of this magnitude. It’s time for the community to come together and restore the beautiful city that we all love. Seeing the pictures put the amount of destruction into perspective. My first thought was trying to find ways to help the areas affected anyway I could. I know that organizations all over the state and country are organizing hurricane relief programs and I am actively giving my donations. I know my participation isn’t going to repair the damage that has been done, but it’s the least I can do for those that have been affected. I know the community is strong and will bounce back. It might take some time and Wilmington may be down right now, but it’s definitely not out.”

Jordan Henry, Women’s basketball (2014-2017)

“It saddened me, that was my home for  four years and watching it get torn to pieces on the news was difficult to watch. I just felt a sense of helplessness. I was trying to keep up with the news as much as I could before our power went off in Matthews, NC. The devastation that Florence has caused has changed many lives in Wilmington and other surrounding areas. I know Wilmington is resilient. Rebuild and conquer. We’re not alone in this, we have each other and we need to take it one day at a time. This is a monumental event that caused detrimental effects on countless lives and we will get through this. Remember to stick together and the pieces will fall back into place. We will be back and better than ever.”

Austin Inman, Men’s golf (2015-2018)

“I was at my house in Wilmington when the hurricane hit, I live close to the airport. For me the thought of evacuating wasn’t in the picture. I grew up in this town so I felt like I needed to stay to help others once the storm hit. I think this city will come back stronger than ever. I have seen people coming together to help others to try and get back to a normal life like never before. One message I have for fellow Seahawks is to stay positive! Any damages that we have- we will rebuild it. We will come back stronger after this storm than before it.”

Kennard McDowell, Baseball (2015-2017)

“Being a Seahawk, they welcomed me in. Coming from South Carolina, coming from a small school, they welcomed me in, so I know they will welcome anybody who’s struggling during this tough time. Seahawk Nation, they’ll pull together and they’ll build Wilmington back up. Coach [Mark] Scalf runs a top-notch baseball program. I know he’ll get the guys together and do volunteer work or donate, to help the community. Coach Scalf has a good heart so I’m sure they would do what they could to help. I know it’s going to take time to rebuild because Wilmington is a beautiful place. Any time someone asks me where I went to school, and I tell them ‘UNC Wilmington,’ they say ‘oh yeah, that’s a beautiful place.’ I just hope we all can come together, whether it be former athletes or alumni for that matter; everyone can kind of pitch in to help. Just help Wilmington start this process of getting back to what it was.”

Lauren Moore, Softball (2014-2017)

“First of all, the first responders and linesmen have been amazing. People from all across the country have been coming in to help. Wilmington is such a tight knit community, I know everyone will come together to restore the beautiful city to the way it was before the hurricane. Looking at the pictures online was like seeing something out of a movie. I didn’t and still don’t want to believe that it happened. I think with every picture my jaw got closer and closer to the floor. The pictures of campus damage broke my heart. I was constantly watching the news with my former roommate and student-athlete Nicole Lott who still lives in Wilmington. All I could think about is my favorite place being ruined by one storm. This storm was devastating but Seahawk Nation is so much stronger. I know all of the student athletes, both current and alumni, are devastated by the storm’s damage. I know the athletes will surround the community with support and give everything they can physically and emotionally. Go Seahawks!”

Evan Phillips, Baseball (2013-2015)

“It was just hard to watch. I had just turned on the news to get an update of the hurricane and I got word that I was being recalled to Baltimore. There was just a whirlwind of emotions, trying to be focused on being recalled to the majors and also thinking about the trouble Wilmington was in. During my time at UNCW, we always did a lot in the community, and the baseball team has been one of the most consistent programs at the school. I think the community looks up to them for that, and [the community] would be motivated to persevere and continue to fight, rallying behind all of the athletic programs.”

Nick Powell, Men’s basketball (2014-2018)

“I was safe in my hometown Greensboro when the storm hit. It’s definitely disheartening to see Wilmington endure such a severe storm. My first concern is for the people and families that weren’t able to evacuate or properly protect themselves from the hurricane. I’m amazed at the impact the storm had on the area in terms of flooding, tree and power line damage that have made it so difficult for locals to get back into the city. Wilmington is a very supportive and inclusive community. I have no doubt the city will see tremendous efforts from its residents to restore what has been lost in the storm. Stay positive and be helpful to community members that were strongly affected by the storm. Allow UNCW to be a resource to all of Wilmington in this time of need. As it always has, UNCW sports will continue to bring members of the community together in a way that is much bigger than sports itself. The student athletes, coaches, and staff will offer themselves as leaders in the community and a constant support system during a time like this.”

Meg Salvadore, Women’s soccer (2014-2017)

“I still have many friends who are at UNCW and leading up to it I kept checking in on them and hoping they were able to evacuate. I constantly was checking social media for pictures and updates. It really broke my heart to look at locations where my best memories were made submerged in water and destroyed. It was so awesome to see WeWilmRebuild and know those are students. They were collecting supplies, setting up donation sites before Florence even hit. I’m incredibly proud to say I spent four years of my life in Wilmington. The people have the biggest hearts and UNCW attracts the most genuine individuals and there’s a reason for that. When it comes down to it the players win games, not coaches, and UNCW has some of the strongest student-athletes I know. And they’ll want to make Seahawk Nation proud. And I think the community will be behind them more than ever. It’s Wilmington Strong now.”

Stian Sandbekkhaug, Men’s soccer (2016-2017)

“It’s pretty tough to see the places I used to visit submerged in water. I feel bad for the permanent residents who were forced to move, as Wilmington was their true home. I’m glad some people were able to get out with time to spare. I know the news reports photos and videos of flooded streets, but I’m wondering how the areas around campus look, especially where my former teammates live. I hope everyone will to return to their homes and not have to be placed in temporary housing. I think sports will be a great way for people to not only get their minds off the rebuilding aspect of the community but can bring a sense of unity within the university and city.”

Jordon Talley, Men’s basketball (2014-2018)

“I’m currently in Germany for basketball, but I was thinking and praying for Wilmington and hoping that everybody was safe and their homes didn’t have too much damage. I couldn’t believe some of the pictures I saw. It was crazy, but its recovery time and it’s a good time to come together and lean on each other to fully get through this. Sports will be huge for the recovery because they can bring everybody at the university and community together.”

Special thanks to Assistant Sports Editor Noah Powers and Staff Writers Lanre Badmus, Brian Carpenter and Collin Underwood for contributing to this article.