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Stuck in the States: Chipola softball duo makes alternate arrangements with homeland locked-down

Thais Uyema (left) and Natalie Kopicova (right) are staying with teammates and being taken care of by coaches while they wait for clearance to head to their home countries.
Thais Uyema (left) and Natalie Kopicova (right) are staying with teammates and being taken care of by coaches while they wait for clearance to head to their home countries.(WJHG)
Published: Mar. 19, 2020 at 8:19 PM CDT
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Chipola is home away from home for the Lady Indians six international softball players.

Right now, it still is for some—they can’t get home.

"I'm stuck here because my country just got put on lockdown for two weeks," sophomore infielder Thais Uyema said.

"The situation is Czech Republic isn't good right now," freshman outfielder Natalie Kopicova admitted. "We are in lockdown and we can't even leave our houses."

Uyema hails from Lima, Peru. Kopicova is from Liberec. After saying goodbye to their season as defending national champs with a 28-4 record and No. 4 national ranking, they tried to say goodbye (for now) to campus.

"I was trying to go home this week but the flight got canceled and our president gave a message explaining what's their plan," Uyema recalled. "Hopefully everything is better by the end of March."

With classes moving online, and travel limbo for at least two weeks, their well-being is the program's top priority.

"Coach Kelly lives at the dorms," associate head coach Jimmy Hendrix said. "We've been up here every day with them making sure they have what they need. Three of them flew out [Wednesday] going home, the Netherlands, Russia, and New Zealand. We're waiting on these last two and then everybody will be gone."

Ideally, a host family would contact Hendrix or the college if the stay is long term.

The plan is to move the players in with nearby teammates. In the meantime, their care is up to the coaches.

The same is true for basketball. The men's team has five international athletes, three of whom can't get back to Australia and France, another who won't be returning to Senegal.

"Most of these international kids only go home once a year or once every two years, some of them once every three years," men's head coach Brendan Foley said. "We're blessed the school is able to give them meal money. Our assistant coaches are here. They took them to the grocery store so they got food, water, any supplies they need to have. Obviously with the cafeteria closed down they're going to need more food and we're going to make sure that they have that."

They still have communication with their loved ones.

"We talk like every day about the situation there," Kopicova added. "People can't work right now because the companies are closing....so yeah, it's much worse in Europe."

As long as they're still here, they have each other.

"I would love to be home but the coaches have been helpful trying to be with us, understanding our situation, if we need anything," Uyema said. "They are really family for us here."

They'll be ready to play at the family reunion...whenever that is.

Copyright 2019 WJHG. All rights reserved.

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