After earning Mercury All-Area honorable mention honors in 2013, Spring-Ford field hockey goalkeeper Dante Vagnoni was poised to replicate the same success in 2014.
Now, Vagnoni, a senior and brother of Simone Vagnoni who plays field hockey at Michigan State, is on the outside looking in as the new PIAA gender rule, which makes it nearly impossible for boys to play on girls' teams, has forced him off the Rams roster.
"All in all we chose to comply with the new PIAA ruling,' Spring-Ford athletic director Michael McDaniel said.
The PIAA ruling was approved on June 19 due to circumstances where boys were playing sports that were traditionally meant for girls — such as field hockey and volleyball — because the schools they attended didn't offer a boys' team.
Under the ruling, a boy can't play on a girls' team if the same sport is offered for both genders (i.e. soccer, basketball; etc.). In Vagnoni's case where field hockey is not offered as a boys' sport, McDaniel and Spring-Ford had to consider four circumstances, ultimately levying a decision before the season started.'
- The overall boys' athletic program at Spring-Ford provided fewer opportunities for boys to participate than for girls.'
- Vagnoni would not displace any girl from the team's roster. '
- Vagnoni would likely not, due to his physical size, athletic ability, and/or other characteristics, pose an increased risk of harm to opponents beyond that which would be posed by an average-sized and skilled participating girl.'
- Vagnoni would not provide his team with a significant competitive advantage (as applicable herein, this means that the boy's participation would likely cause the team to be noticeably more competitive than it would be without the boy's participation on the team.
"This is a watershed day in the history PIAA,' PIAA Executive Director, Dr. Robert Lombardi said in a PIAA press release on June 20. "With the unanimous support of the Board of Directors, we believe we have crafted a By-Law that will expand opportunity for female athletes, protect the ideals of fair competition and conserve the health and safety of our female participants'.
The PIAA ruling also states that a boy who plays for a girls' team would force that team to fall under a "mixed gender' classification. That team would have to compete in the playoffs at the boys' level, and with field hockey at least, there is no District 1 boys' playoff. That would hopefully be rectified with the PIAA agreeing to sanction boys' field hockey in hope of producing enough all-boys' and mixed gender squads for a playoff system.
Vagnoni compiled a 87.6 save percentage in 2013, good for second in the PAC-10, as he helped lead the Rams to a District 1-AAA berth, eventually falling to Hatboro-Horsham in an overtime match in the first round.
Conestoga was also affected by the PIAA ruling as senior Olivier Everts was left off its team. Everts became the second boy ever to play field hockey at Conestoga. The 6-2, 165 pound midfielder/forward and Conestoga fell to Owen J. Roberts last season in the third round of the District 1-AAA playoffs.
AROUND THE PAC
Phoenixville begins this season after bumping up to the Class AAA level. The Phantoms advanced to the second round of the District 1-AA playoffs last season after advancing to the PAC-10 Final Four.
Power Rankings will now be utilized in determining playoff seedings in District 1. The rankings will place more weight on strength of schedule and quality wins and losses. Follow Sam Stewart on Twitter @Samuel_Stewart7