Sydney Malham has spent the past four seasons as a goalkeeper for Ohio. She started in 42 out of the 47 games that she played with the Bobcats in her first three seasons, but Malham went into her last season like plenty of other athletes. She had no idea how COVID-19 would affect her senior season.

“We didn’t even know if our spring season was going to happen or what was going on,” Malham said. “Training at 100% is really hard when you don’t have anything you’re working toward.” 

After COVID-19 concerns postponed Ohio’s season until spring, it was difficult for Malham to see a future unimpeded by the pandemic.

Ohio spent the fall training, but it was a far cry from previous seasons. The differences have impacted players in ways other than playing. 

“I think it’s just like on the mental side,” Malham said.

Malham believes Ohio gets enough practice and is lucky to have its facilities available, but she feels like the only people she gets to see are her teammates. She loves her teammates, but the inability to see other friends on campus or spend time with her family also has taken a toll. Malham has difficulty finding time away from the Bobcats.

“For me, in the fall, the only place I would go was to practice and then to Kroger to get food, and that was it,” Malham said. “I didn’t really go anywhere else, which was really hard to do.” 

Despite the downsides, Malham is over the moon that the Bobcats got the chance to play this spring. This season is new ground for the Bobcats, which means each game has its own importance. 

“We have a lot less games that have way more impact,” Malham said. “Only the top (teams) get to go on to the tournament.”

Ohio’s season was shortened to just 10 games, but Malham is happy to be playing again at all. The Bobcats waited all year for a chance to play and they want to cherish it.

Another positive for Malham came her way when she was named the Mid-American Conference East Defensive Player of the Week on March 17 for her shutout performance against Akron. 

“I mean it was definitely cool I think,” Malham said. 

Malham was glad the MAC honored her and Ohio because it was the only team the week of March 17 that recorded a shutout. She feels that it was more of a team award than it was for her. The award was one of the bright spots for her to be able to get back on the field and perform at such a high level.

But all good things must end sooner or later. Just as things were turning in the right direction for Ohio, a broken finger ended Malham’s already brief final season. As the season begins to wrap up, Malham finds the friendships are what she is going miss the most on Ohio.

“For four years you train hard with them, you wake up early with them,” Malham said. “You go through a lot of hard times with them.”

Malham’s spent her college career dedicated to Ohio and has had a monumental impact which hasn’t gone unnoticed. Coach Aaron Rodgers reflected on Malham’s career during an interview following Ohio’s loss to Bowling Green on Sunday.

“Obviously a tremendous, tremendous career Sydney’s had here,” Rodgers said. “What a great goalkeeper, the great four years that she was able to give to Ohio soccer.”