Cerneka Senior Season Cancelled? No Way!

Senior Joelle Cerneka Almost Loses Her Last Season as a Trojan Due to Eligibility, What is the Requirements for Eligibility and How’d She Earn It Back?


Photo by Destiny Noblitt

Cerneka senior Season Cancelled? No Way! What is the Requirements for Eligibility and How’d She Earn It Back?

Joelle Cerneka is a senior who has played lacrosse for West every year of her high school career, playing a total of six years between the Wild Tide and West Brunswick teams. On Friday, February 24th, Cerneka, head coach Dan Rozen and coaches Jessica Levasa and Jim Heart received heartbreaking news about a small counselor oversight, making Cerneka ineligible for this year’s 2023 lacrosse season.

Cerneka was not informed about her ineligibility until five days before the women’s lacrosse team’s first opening game of the season at Jack Britt High. However, she wanted to know what she could do to get an appeal and still be able to play.

“Coach Dan walked up to me, and he just seemed very stressed; he was looking for an empty room to sit alone and I immediately thought I did something wrong,” said Cerneka. “Obviously I didn’t because I’m a good student, but we sat down and he just started crying and then I started to cry because obviously something was wrong; I was no longer eligible because of my AP class only counting as a half credit because it’s technically a skinny class [a class that’s half the time of the regular course].”

Losing your season, especially your senior season, is heartbreaking. Not only is it heartbreaking, but it could also affect a student’s future if they want to play in college, especially if they are trying for a scholarship like Cerneka. If you commit early in your junior or even sophomore year, they could revoke your scholarship if you do not play your senior year. If you have yet to commit but rely on your senior year to help you branch out scholarship opportunities, getting your senior season taken away could completely ruin your chances at a sports scholarship. Fortunately for Cerneka, Saint Andrews said they would honor her scholarship even before the Lady Trojans had an answer.

“I was told there was nothing I could do,” said Cerneka. “We talked to Que Tucker, who is the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s Commissioner, and I was told it is just school rules, and they cannot waive it, but I can come back as an assistant coach.”

This situation raises the question: what are the requirements for athletic eligibility? There are a few requirements for student-athletes at West. According to the NCHSAA guidelines, a minimum load is five courses in the traditional school schedule and three courses for schools in the “block” format. If the school is on an A/B form of block scheduling, a student must pass six of eight courses during what would traditionally be defined as a semester. Any student, including seniors, must pass that minimum load, even if they need fewer for graduation. Home school students must pass all courses in which he/she is enrolled in the member school. At the end of the first semester, a superintendent or principal has eight days (excluding Saturday and Sunday) to check the grades of students, removing ineligible players immediately upon knowledge of ineligibility and no later than the completion of the eight days and restoring eligibility to any debarred player after he or she has qualified at the end of a semester.
(1) Any student who has his or her eligibility restored may participate the day following the completion of the semester of ineligibility.
(2) The purpose of the eight-day period is to allow schools ample time to check grades. A player should be removed before the eight-day period is up if the school has the knowledge and has verified that the student is ineligible.

On March 14, Rozen got the call and announced to the team at 11:09am via Remind that Cerneka was going to be on the field, starting that night against the Emsley A Laney Bucs in Wilmington. Cerneka was able to pick up a team leisure sports class with Coach William Wood during fourth block, adding a credit to her transcript.

“Even though we lost it, felt amazing being back on the field,” said Cerneka. “Even without winning the game, we won back our team.”