The old adage says hope springs eternal and after a disappointing fall without a season, Frontier League soccer teams are hoping for the next best thing, playing a shortened season this spring.
While league teams from Lewis County played an abbreviated soccer schedule in the fall, Jefferson County teams didn’t play at all because of coronavirus pandemic precautions.
Now teams from Jefferson County, as well as two teams from both Lewis County and Oswego County, are looking forward to what’s been dubbed as “Fall Season II” throughout the state.
“Soccer season is upon us,” General Brown boys soccer coach Phil Jenner said. “And it will be great for the kids to get out there again after missing out on playing last fall.”
Team practices in soccer begin this week, including some on Monday, with other teams commencing practice next Monday.
In all, there are 11 boys soccer teams and 12 girls teams from the league that hope to begin playing soccer this month, with some beginning their schedules as early as March 25.
“I’m happy for that because obviously you want to play something,” South Jefferson girls soccer coach Terry Burgess said. “Of course the hard part was it was supposed to start March 1, that was never going to happen with the weather up here. At least we’re going to hopefully get some games, we’re supposed to play 10 games. ... But whatever we get is a bonus I think, for the kids and for the coaches and so on.”
Both boys and girls teams will compete in two pools of play, with Carthage, Indian River, Immaculate Heart Central, Watertown, General Brown and South Jefferson playing in one group in girls soccer, with Belleville Henderson, LaFargeville, Sackets Harbor, Sandy Creek and Thousand Islands competing in another group.
The boys’ team groups include the same teams, except for IHC, which is now playing as an independent team.
The Copenhagen boys and girls teams — which both competed in Lewis County’s fall season that also included Beaver River, Lowville and South Lewis — will both play in the Fall Season II as well.
Among the league’s boys teams, some of the larger schools such as Carthage, General Brown, South Jefferson and Watertown begin their practices Monday, with the balance of the schools starting play a week from Monday.
This is true on the girls side as well, with the exception of IHC and South Jefferson, which open practice next Monday.
“It’s clear,” Burgess said of the Spartans’ turf field. “Of course the weather (last) week helped.”
“Unfortunately it looks like it will be inside the gym,” Belleville Henderson boys soccer coach Shawn Maloney said of his team’s first practice next week. “But that’s the way it is and we’ll just have to adapt to it.”
Both of Indian River’s boys and girls teams began early by holding workouts and practices last week.
The first boys soccer games are slated be held on March 25, such as General Brown hosting Carthage. Most girls games start on March 30, with Watertown playing at Indian River and General Brown hosting IHC, among others.
“We’re going to try and get like six to eight games in,” IHC girls soccer coach Kurt Robbins said. “And at least the kids will be playing, that will be the good part.”
Of course games being played also depends the availability and condition of playing fields.
Most of the larger schools, as well as Copenhagen and Thousand Islands, play on turf fields, with the exception of IHC. The other teams play on grass, which could be challenging with the weather as the season stretches from late March into April.
“(It’s) probably just like any other field that doesn’t have turf,” Maloney said of his team’s home field. “It’s really wet and unfortunately I don’t believe we’ll actually have a home game unless Mother Nature cooperates with us, maybe late in this Fall Sports II season, I’m hopeful. But it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to play on our field.”
“The thing is, you’re not playing for any kind of championship,” Robbins said. “I said to my A.D. ‘if we have to play like our first four games away on turf, like play South Jeff and play Carthage, all those schools have turf fields, so let’s do it.’”
With games scheduled through late April, there will be a one-week overlap with the spring sports season, which includes lacrosse, baseball, softball, tennis and track and field.
“So nobody wants to overlap your Fall II sports with your spring sports,” Burgess said. “Spring sports are the only sports who truly lost a season last year. Fall sports played their entire season, winter (sports) lost the states in both basketball and wrestling, but spring sports lost everything. So I think there’s a real feeling in the section anyway, that we really, really want spring sports to get their turn this year.”
No matter how many games teams will be able to play this season, many will just be pleased to have a season of some sort.
“It brings a little joy to my heart because we’ve put so much time and effort into this program,” Maloney said. “And to see the pandemic to take that away from us in the fall, it was pretty disheartening. And to get a second chance here and kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s going to be good to get our whole soccer family back together.”