Soccer programs on rise at Mattanawcook

Posted Sept. 21, 2008, at 9:31 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 24, 2010, at 4:02 p.m.

LINCOLN, Maine — Two years spent raising almost $20,000 culminated Saturday for the SAD 67 Athletic Boosters Club when the Mattanawcook Academy boys and girls soccer clubs played Piscataquis Community High School of Guilford.

The boys team lost 2-1 and the girls team tied PCHS 2-2, but boosters club Vice President Jana Pierce still saw the day as a win-win for the boosters and the MA student body.

“It’s been a lot of work that we have accomplished, and we have received a lot of support from the community, too,” Pierce said Saturday.

It’s the second year for club soccer at MA, but the games were the first played on the new MA soccer field. The new goals and flags, field maintenance, and some new uniforms were all paid for with $19,012 the boosters raised, said Dolly Phillips, the boosters club treasurer.

The fundraisers included raffles, car washes, bake sales, a chili cookoff and a golf tournament.

Pierce and girls coach Stephanie Thurlow hope that support shows itself when the boosters club goes before the SAD 67 board of directors on Oct. 1 to request that the board approve soccer as a varsity sport for the 2009-10 school year.

With about 60 boys and girls participating, the soccer teams have helped ensure that 41 percent of the MA student body participates in a sport, Pierce said. The football team and cheerleaders drew 66 students; golf and cross country teams, 27; and field hockey, 32.

Before the creation of the soccer clubs last year, Mattanawcook was the largest high school in the state without a soccer program, Thurlow said.

“When you say that you are getting 60 more students involved in a sport, that’s saying something positive,” Thurlow said.

To draw that many students in an area whose sports — and occasionally, whose politics — is dominated by football is no mean achievement, Pierce said. The soccer boosters had to overcome some political resistance to get as far as they have.

Football boosters on the school board and in the community balked at the idea of a fall sport such as soccer competing with their sport and diminishing the number of student-athletes who want to play football, Pierce said. Former Principal Jim Boothby, she felt, didn’t support soccer as much as present Principal Henry Pietras does.

Board support “has been hesitant,” Pierce said. “I think they [board members] wanted to see what the numbers and community support would be.”

The two years soccer has been at the academy have shown that it can join other fall sports without hurting other teams.

Many MA players have never played team soccer before, but the teams with 38 male and female soccer players at Mattanawcook Junior High School of Lincoln this fall give high school soccer a feeder program. They also indicate how much support for the sport exists in SAD 67, Thurlow said.

SAD 67 serves Chester, Lincoln and Mattawamkeag.

The presence of soccer as a varsity sport will be a draw to students, especially as state-wide school reorganization continues and the possibility arises that SAD 67 students could find themselves with several high schools to choose from, Pierce said.

SADs 30 and 31, which are slated to join with SAD 67 in the proposed RSU 17 of about 25 communities, are big on soccer, Thurlow said.

If the board approves soccer as a varsity sport, Thurlow and Pierce would like to see the soccer field widened. Its present width is adequate, but it abuts the baseball field, and one dug-out had to be padded to accommodate soccer.

A roadway behind the school and utility wires that run close to the field will probably need to be moved, and the field can use a soccer scoreboard. The boosters don’t expect much difficulty in raising money to help the soccer teams move forward, Pierce said.

“We got a lot of support that we didn’t know we were going to have when we started,” she said.

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