Dowdell Overcomes Personal Tragedy to Help Lead Team to Glory

Softball player Meaghan Dowdell ’21 has had to bear witness to unimaginable highs and just as tragic of lows.

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Since last spring, University student-athletes have been dealing with hardships no one could have imagined a year and a half ago.

But Meaghan Dowdell ’21 has had to bear witness to unimaginable highs and just as tragic of lows.

Without her father, Bryan, a collegiate softball career would not have been a reality.

Dowdell’s long-time catcher during throwing sessions, Bryan also served as his daughter’s youth basketball coach in New Jersey. And, when she made the decision to attend Scranton, a huge question loomed for Meaghan: Should I play softball collegiately? She knew who to turn to for advice.

“It was my dad who fully convinced me it was in my best interest to play softball,” she said. “Looking back on this now, I cannot imagine how different my college experience would have been if I had not taken his advice and given it a shot.”

And give it a shot Meaghan did. In the fall of 2018, Meaghan was preparing for her sophomore season and two days before her world was forever changed, she had her final conversation with her father. The topic: softball.

“He was looking forward to watching the team play and mentioned how proud he was of me for continuing to play despite my difficult schedule,” she said. “His hopes were extremely high for the outcome of Scranton’s season.”

Forty-eight hours later, Bryan suffered a traumatic brain injury.

The next three months for the Dowdell family were excruciating, as they watched Bryan battle every day to recover. Meanwhile, in Scranton, Meaghan was dealing with injuries of her own and was contemplating leaving school to be with her family full time.

In December 2018, the family received devastating news. Bryan’s health was deteriorating and, just a few days before Christmas, he passed away. Gutted, Meaghan felt like giving up her softball career permanently.

But, something brought her back to the field.

“Knowing the last conversation with my dad ended around the topic of Scranton softball was enough to fully convince me quitting was not an option,” she said. “I knew that it was going to be hard, but I also knew it was worth it and that my coaches, teammates and friends were supporting me while I was away from home.”

What transpired in the 2019 season for the Royals was something only dreams are made of.

Finishing with a 32-15 overall mark, Scranton blitzed through the competition at the 2019 Landmark Conference Championship on their way to capturing their first-ever Landmark title to earn a bid into the NCAA Division III Championship.

Dowdell shined in the tournament, tossing back-to-back complete games against Susquehanna to secure the conference title for Scranton. For her efforts, she was named the Landmark Championship MVP.

“(The Landmark Championship) alone was such a surreal experience because I felt (my dad’s) presence there guiding us as we played three games that Saturday,” she said. “After a long and emotional season, receiving the MVP award on top of everything else was proof to me that I was not meant to quit softball.”

Over the past two seasons, Dowdell has excelled in the classroom and on the field. After having her 2020 season cut short due to the pandemic, she went 9-3 in the pitching circle in 2021 as Scranton once again advanced to the Landmark Championship game.

Earning her bachelor’s degree in exercise science in May, Dowdell recently began her first semester of graduate school at Kean University, where she is pursuing her Doctorate of Physical Therapy.

She now embarks on her professional life away from Scranton, but she knows that she’ll have someone watching out for her every step of the way.

“After my dad passed, his impact on my life only grew,” she said. “I now fully understand how much of a blessing life is and how in an instant everything can change. Because of him, I wake up every morning knowing how precious time is and I cherish every moment I have with my family and friends.”

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