Capital Region

WAC soccer, Wasaren League fall sports moving to Season II

Gazette File PhotoThe Western Athletic Conference announced Monday that it won't play soccer this fall because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Gazette File Photo

The Western Athletic Conference announced Monday that it won't play soccer this fall because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Categories: High School Sports

Section II’s alternative fall season that is scheduled to start in March is going to be even busier after the Western Athletic Conference and the Wasaren League on Monday released plans to play some of their sports at that time.

The Western Athletic Conference announced that it will be playing boys’ and girls’ soccer in Season II, and the Wasaren League announced that it will be shifting all of its fall sports to Season II.

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association announced last week that the high risk sports of football, boys’ and girls’ volleyball and cheerleading could not be played in the fall and that schools would have the option to compete in those sports in Season II that starts March 1 and will run through the end of April.

“For safety reasons, I think it’s a good thing,” said Zale Benton, varsity girls’ soccer coach at Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville and the WAC girls’ soccer representative. “In terms of playing in the spring, it’s difficult for us in Montgomery County. Fonda is the only school with turf, but we have people who will be willing to come together to make it happen.”

Benton also believes people will be understanding when dealing with student-athletes and a brief overlap in the seasons next year.

“Some kids play all of the sports, and we don’t want to put a kid in a situation where they have to make a decision,” Benton said. “Coaches I know are very good about sharing the kids. If there is an overlap, I would think the coaches will be accommodating, especially this school year.”

The Western Athletic Conference released a statement, saying: “The Western Athletic Conference has decided to move forward with the low risk sports of cross country, golf and tennis at the varsity level for the fall season. The moderate risk sport of soccer will be moved to the Fall Sports Season II, which will begin in March and run through April. The Fall Sport Season II also includes high risk sports such as football, cheerleading and volleyball. The decision to focus on low-risk play was made with the health and safety of students, staff and our school communities as our primary concern. In addition, logistical issues dealing with transportation, field maintenance, supervision and cleaning and disinfecting were taken into “consideration.

“For schools that may not be going in the direction of the WAC, there has to be some concern with getting through their seasons,” Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons varsity girls’ soccer coach Joe Masi said.

The WAC statement further reads: “After reviewing various sets of guidance and weighing the risks and benefits each sport presents, it was determined this decision was the most reasonable way for our schools to provide athletic opportunities to our students without jeopardizing the safe return of students to their respective schools. This decision still allows all students a possible opportunity to participate in athletics during the school year. Finally, it allows each district to allocate as many resources as possible to ensure the reopening plans are being implemented with regard to the academic needs of our students. In closing, we hope that all of the sports teams are able to play this school year, but it is a very fluid and ever changing situation.

“People are concerned with getting kids back to classes first,” Benton said.

Masi believes some WAC student-athletes who play soccer will join other sports teams that their schools offer this fall.

“I wouldn’t be surprised,” Masi said. “It could very well be. Before this [Monday’s announcement], my thought was that because we won’t have football [in the fall], it could help us in soccer.”

Benton expects OESJ’s cross country team to have more runners than usual.

“I am encouraging my soccer players to run,” she said. “They didn’t get any softball or track [due to the cancellation of the spring sports season]. Some of them haven’t done anything since December.”

The Wasaren League’s announcement means that, along with the high risk sports, member schools will have the option to conduct their soccer, field hockey, cross country, golf and tennis seasons in Season II next year.

The Wasaren League statement reads: “After thorough deliberation during a series of meetings between Wasaren League school superintendents, the League has decided to postpone all fall 2020 sports to the Fall II season in Spring 2021 with football, volleyball and competitive cheer. The Season II (fall sports) is tentatively scheduled from March 1 to May 8 per NYSPHSAA. Significant discussions took place considering the increased risk of exposure to COVID-19, contact tracing, transportation, scheduling, and safe management of sporting events. The superintendents agreed that the focus in September and October should be on the safe and healthy reopening of schools. While the league has decided to postpone fall sports, the steps moving forward for each district will be made in consultation with their respective Boards of Education.”

“I’m not mad at anybody. I’m upset at the circumstances,” Stillwater girls’ soccer coach Christine Ihnatolya said. “I feel bad for that.”

While the NYSPHSAA called off fall sport regional and state-level competitions earlier this summer, Section II last week announced that there would be no postseason play for its fall teams.

Stillwater soccer used Section II tournament wins as a springboard toward state title-game appearances the last three seasons, and secured New York Class C crowns in 2018 and 2019.

“I feel bad for the girls, especially our group of seniors,” Ihnatolya said. “Any group of seniors at any school. So much has been taken away from them.”

The fall sports season is set to begin September 21.

“I’ve told our girls we’ll try to make the best of every opportunity we’re given,” Ihnatolya said.

Ballston Spa’s school board approved its low risk varsity sports (cross country, tennis, golf, swimming) for the fall season Monday night, and voted down its moderate risk offering, soccer.

“Obviously, I’m disappointed,” Ballston Spa boys’ varsity soccer coach Garry Preece said Monday night during a phone interview. “I have a really good group of kids.

“I think for them and the rest of the soccer community, they just wanted to have a chance to play.”

Last week, fellow Suburban Council member Bethlehem announced that it would be fielding only low risk sports this fall.

“I do think you will see other schools dropping,” Benton said. “People are going to re-evaluate.”

Reach Jim Schiltz at j[email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.

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