York, PA - The feel is different. It's hot, sometimes muggy, but there's room to run. Typically, preparation for a girls' soccer season was conducted inside a gym while it was still cold outside. Not anymore.
For many across York County and a handful of districts in Pennsylvania, the gap between last season and this one is shorter than their summer vacations. The shift to the fall has presented problems for students who participate and those who run the sport.
To the PIAA, moving girls' soccer was a necessity for the area to catch up with the rest of the state.
The change was initiated by the PIAA two years ago to erase the split that made girls' soccer the only high school sport not to crown a true state champion. Districts 3 -- which includes York and Adams counties -- along with 2 and 11 are the last to join the rest of Pennsylvania in playing girls' soccer in the fall.
The remaining districts to switch seasons also will again be broken into three classifications. For the last two years, District 3 schools competed in only two classes, a compromise District 3 soccer chairman Fred Isopi said was made when the district asked for a two-year reprieve from playing in the fall.
Despite that time to prepare, many associated with the YAIAA are still adjusting.
Some players must chose between soccer and another sport. A few coaches had to pick between guiding the girls or boys.
Ashley Chioda is one of those players. Faced with a decision of soccer or field hockey entering her junior year at Dallastown, Chioda chose field hockey.
She had played soccer since she was 6 but quit it completely after the spring season to focus on field hockey, a sport she said she not only prefers for fun but for college aspirations, as well. Upon learning two years ago she must chose between the sports, Chioda went back and forth on which to pick. First, she settled on soccer. Then, she noticed her skill level improving considerably in field hockey, which she picked up in seventh grade.
During last fall's field hockey season, Chioda began to lean heavily toward choosing field hockey. The decision finally became clear in the spring while playing soccer.
"I realized I enjoyed field hockey more than soccer," she said.
Field hockey also drew South Western's Laken Bull away from the high school pitch for this fall. Bull, entering her senior season at the school, said her decision was weighted heavily on what she could see herself playing in college. She also knew playing club soccer away from high school is still an option, "so I know I'm not giving it up completely."
Unlike Chioda, Bull still debated into this summer.
"It just kind of dawned on me. 'Ok I should stick with this,'" Bull said. "I knew I needed to just stick with something."
Neither entertained the thought of playing two sports at once, and both said they were disappointed in the move.
"The decision for me was easy," Chioda said, "but for some girls who enjoy both it was probably really tough to decide. In the spring, there's not that many sports to play."
Under the new layout of seasonal high school girls' sports, six (soccer, field hockey, golf, volleyball, cross country, tennis) will be offered in the fall compared to three (softball, lacrosse, track and field) in the spring.
The sandwiching of boys' and girls' soccer into one season also creates a challenge for administrators. Many fields are shared. So are soccer officials, and Herb Schmidt is working to schedule the same number of them into twice as many games on given nights.
Schmidt, a YAIAA consultant who oversees the assigning of officials, called the challenge "massive."
"When you have nine games for boys and girls in the same night, you need 36 officials," he said. "They only have a pool of 42. There's nights it gets very tight because not all are available every night."
Coaches also must coordinate practice times between their teams, as Barry Barbush is planning with new boys' coach Jim Renalda at Dallastown.
While Dallastown is one of the biggest schools in the York-Adams league, Barbush knew his girls practiced on the same field in the spring that the boys used in the fall. Because of that, one team cannot always practice right after school.
"The concern is," he said, "you have some ninth graders and 10th graders that don't drive and wouldn't be able to go home and come back."
For Barbush, the dilemma hit home partly because he was an assistant on the boys' team before the change went into effect. He is not alone. Many area coaches spent time on both boys' and girls' staffs at various schools. Brett Maxwell was the head coach for both teams at West York until he had to pick one -- he chose the boys' team until a teaching opportunity took him to Susquehannock, where he will coach its girls' squad.
Before his dual role at West York, Maxwell had been on both coaching staffs at Susquehannock. He played at the school and, as a former player, saw the benefits of moving girls' soccer to the fall. One reason: more players can now spend the spring with club teams, which provide showcases for prospective colleges.
"It's been difficult for the District 3 girls to get that exposure and get that high level of play," Maxwell said.
His new team at Susquehannock could be at an advantage this fall. The Warriors, who were young with only four seniors in the spring, made a late-season run to the YAIAA tournament championship game. Instead of waiting nearly a year, most of that team returns only three months later.
Maxwell said the quick turnaround was a factor he considered in remaining as girls' coach at West York.
"It is nice to have that short layoff," he said, "but you have to worry about burnout."
To combat that, Barbush gave his players a month off following the spring season before conducting voluntary workouts. Other YAIAA schools, such as Eastern York -- which moves up from Division III to Division II and also adjusts to a coaching change -- went with a month-long break, too.
"We're conditioning probably harder in this season than we did in the spring season," new Golden Knights coach Brian Lyle said.
The heat, alone, will keep coaches cognizant of how hard they push players in August, said York Suburban's Tom Shugars, who also had to give up his assistant post with the Trojans' boys because of the move.
However, training in the summer provides a more accurate preparation for the season than before. Barbush began previous tryouts inside a cramped gym at Dallastown during the cold winter months. Now, when one of his players fields a ball for the first time it's on grass instead of a hard gym floor.
But that's just one step in a season of adjustments.
"I think it's the right move in the long run," Maxwell said. "It helps the girls who play travel ball and are looking to play in college. It gives continuity to the state."
Dallastown senior Alaina Curry, front left, looks to pass with sophomore teammate Kelsi Druck to the right during a voluntary workout Wednesday at the school. No longer stuck in a cramped gym preparing for the season in January, February or March, players such as Curry and Druck have room to perform more game-like drills. (DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS -- EILEEN JOYCE)
Sideline changesThe season is not the only change to the girls' soccer. Of the 18 varsity programs returning from the spring (William Penn will not play, while Delone Catholic becomes a varsity squad), seven have new coaches.
New coach: Jessica Bennett
Replaces: Phomma Phanhthy
Phanhthy is coaching the boys' team.
New coach: Matt Inman
Replaces: George Miller
Miller is coaching the Kennard-Dale boys.
New coach: TBA
Replaces: Jennifer Yutzy
A new coach cannot be officially approved until August.
New coach: Rob Patrick
Replaces: Jebb Nelson
Nelson is coaching the Biglerville boys.
New coach: Dwaine Briggs
Replaces: Mark Bentzel
Bentzel is coaching his daughter's U10 team.
New coach: Brett Maxwell
Replaces: Nick Schiffgens
Schiffgens is not coaching this fall.
New coach: Sarah Waybright
Replaces: Brett Maxwell
Maxwell originally planned to coach West York's boys.