Cheryl Stokes, the chief executive officer/general manager of the Maine Tide of the Women’s Premier Soccer League, said she won’t field a Tide team this season but is hoping to have one in 2012.
“We need a year just to re-evaluate and redefine our goals,” said Stokes. “The last two years, our players have been in town for just three days before having their first game. So we haven’t had any cohesion entering the season.”
Last season, player-coach Hailey Blackburn was able to have just two practices before their opener.
The Tide has gone just 2-17-1 over the past two seasons after going 4-6-2 in its inaugural campaign 2008. One of the two wins was a forfeit.
Stokes said the franchise won’t be penalized for the hiatus.
“We have to find ways to address the starting time of the season, compared to when the players are coming home and what the right combination of Maine players and visiting players should be,” said Stokes.
She explained college players can’t play together as a team until they are released from their spring soccer commitments at their respective schools.
“And I won’t jeopardize their eligibility,” said Stokes.
She said several other teams in the league have post-college players and they are allowed to work out together year-round.
“There are fundamental differences. Our focus is on player development so we have had college players and high school players,” said Stokes. “A lot of other teams don’t have the NCAA problem like we do.
“We have to find out what is best for the players, our organization and the league,” said Stokes. “It’s hard for the league to have one team that is struggling repeatedly. It’s not good for anybody.”
Stokes has other issues to address, also.
She would like to secure a permanent field and she will also have to find jobs and residences for the players who aren’t from the state.
She said Blackburn did an “awesome job” juggling her coaching duties and finding jobs and residences for her players.
“The last 18 months have been challenging for a number of reasons,” said Stokes.
She said having a core groups of 12 (non-college) players who can train year-round until they can integrate the college players into the lineup would be the “ideal situation.”
“We should have everything worked out by late fall,” said Stokes. “We’ve got to have everything in place by the next league meeting in January or February.”
She added that the Maine Sting of the National Premier (Men’s) Soccer League, which didn’t play last season after two seasons in the league, won’t return this season but she has two Under-23 men’s teams from the Bangor-area and another from Presque Isle that will compete in the U-23 league this summer.