How seniors are approaching their last semester at Georgia State

Many Georgia State athletes are beginning their final semester with the university. Much like the first year, the final year can be both an exciting and terrifying time.

Freshmen are at the beginning of a new chapter that is often touted as “the best years of your life”. Seniors, on the other hand, are plunged into the real world, and rarely do people reminisce over the first few months of post-graduation job searching with the same nostalgia as their undergraduate years.

In both cases the fear of the unknown can make it a difficult time. For seniors, this unknown has a much heavier burdon, as the countless resources that alleviate the pressure for students get snatched away and student loans come back to bite.

“[I’m] most stressed about finding a job because basketball didn’t allow me to get much experience, and I am scared no one will hire me,” senior guard Kierra Henry said.

College already goes by quickly, but when your days are filled with practices, training, study hall and games, it makes the time fly by even faster.

“These past four years, it goes by so quick man. You can’t take these days for granted,” senior linebacker Chase Middleton said.

Senior athletes can be both a gift and a curse for coaches. On one hand they bring experience, developed talent and familiarity with the system. On the other, they have to be replaced.

Football, soccer, volleyball and cross country have already finished their seasons, and the seniors that helped propel these teams to victory are already leaving coaches with some gaping holes to fill.

Middleton was a leader and team captain for the Panthers’ defense this year. The Panthers are losing five senior starters from last season’s defense, along with three from the offense.

Georgia State men’s soccer will also have a brand new look next season thanks to graduation.

They will rely heavily on young talent to carry the torch after losing its seven seniors. Last season, head coach Brett Surrency brought in a 10-man freshman class to accompany the other nine returning players in writing the next chapter for Georgia State soccer.

Some seniors, like Hannes Burmeister, have already solidified their spots in Georgia State athletics history.

Burmeister may have not had the senior year he had expected, but he was able to shine when the team needed him most. He had a breakout sophomore season where he lead the Sun Belt Conference in goals (11) and points (26), but went goalless during his final regular season with only one assist.

However, it was in the Sun Belt title match that he performed the best. Burmeister exploded for three goals, one of which tied up the match at 2-2 before the third gave Georgia State a 1-point advantage.

Burmeister’s three goals was the first ever hat trick in a Sun Belt’s championship earning him the award for 2018 Sun Belt Tournament Most Outstanding Player.

The team is also losing seniors Liam Fitzsimmons, Lukas Joyner and Max Hemmings, all of whom had large roles on the 11-win, championship team.

Not all Georgia State senior seasons are over. Spring sports are still in full swing with plenty of competition left. Several sports have senior athletes still trying to compete for conference titles before competing for post-graduation jobs.

“It’s mixed emotions right now,” senior forward Jeff Thomas said. “I’m trying to stay focused on the basketball season because, you know, we need all of the focus. So [I’m putting] all the focus in basketball that I can, but also I’m about to start a new life so I’m tryna think of what my plans are gonna be after I graduate.”

The Ohio-native is currently sitting in Georgia State’s Top 10 for all-time 3-pointers made, attempted and 3-point percentage.

Thomas and the three other seniors on the team are hoping to be the first men’s basketball team to win back-to-back conference championships and give coach Hunter his third trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Thomas, Malik Benlevi, Devin Mitchell and Jordan Tyson have been through a lot together in the past four years. They’ve donated shoes and competed internationally in Barcelona and Madrid, Spain, the Dominican Republic and the Cayman Islands. They’ve won a conference title and earned a trip to New Orleans for the March Madness Tournament.

They even took down Georgia Tech (65-58) and Georgia (91-67), claiming the title of “Georgia’s Best College Basketball Team” and a viral tweet in the Georgia State community

“Honestly, I think when this senior group leaves, we’re going to the best Georgia State team to ever come out,” Thomas said to The Signal before the season began.

The Georgia State women’s basketball team is taking some notable losses this year as well, including seniors Kierra Henry, K.K. Williams and Allison Johnson.

The Panthers have found a new purpose under head coach Gene Hill, who took over the program this summer. Hill brought in a veteran staff and reshaped the team’s identity.

“We have already won more games than we won last year,” senior guard Kierra Henry said. “The team is also way more positive than past teams I have been on.“

Women’s basketball is currently at 10-9, a huge improvement considering they only won eight games last season and finished 8-22.

What are your plans for after college?

“Trying to go to graduate school, get my MPH somewhere. I applied here and a bunch of other programs so really just waiting to hear back from them and see where I end up.” – Caitlin Ray, women’s soccer

“I plan on taking a gap year or two, working in a hospital and traveling. Then I will apply to medical school.” – Kierra Henry, women’s basketball

“Hopefully keep playing basketball, I’ll probably go overseas, find an agent. Go overseas somewhere, play basketball for a couple years, and see what I can do after that.” – Jeff Thomas, men’s basketball

What are you going to miss most?

“I’m definitely going to miss the competitiveness because I’m a very competitive person. So not being able to just slide tackle someone whenever I want is kind of causing a lot of stress and anxiety.” – Caitlin Ray

“The family we have, and also all the free gear.” – Kierra Henry

“Probably all my teammates. Everybody’s real close, I’m friends with everybody on the team. I don’t think I’ll be this attached to another team like this again so probably [my] teammates.” – Jeff Thomas