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SJS votes to move soccer to winter
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STOCKTON – The Sac-Joaquin Section Board of Managers have moved boys and girls soccer to the winter, effective during the 2016-17 school year.

The change was passed with a 31-23 vote on Wednesday morning.

Each of the section’s 26 leagues was given two votes. Representatives for the section’s athletic directors and superintendents also received a vote.

In the Sac-Joaquin Section, boys soccer is currently played in the fall. The girls compete in the spring, and tournaments across seven divisions are slated to begin May 5 and 7.

The change of season puts the Sac-Joaquin Section on track with other CIF sections, allowing for the possibility of a state soccer tournament.

Currently, the CIF offers state championships for football, volleyball, basketball, wrestling, track and field and swimming.

“That’s the direction they’re going in,” said Sierra High athletic director and Valley Oak League soccer commissioner Anthony Chapman, who attended Wednesday’s vote.

Chapman said the VOL’s principals and athletic directors voted unanimously in favor of the change, despite some coaches’ concerns about field maintenance.

“First and foremost, above anything else, it’s what is good for the kids. It gives kids more opportunities to get involved with sports and it balances the seasons a little more. … It changes that equation,” Chapman said. “To me, (participation is) the most paramount part about this move.”

Theoretically, participation in the winter will increase with two more programs added to the fold. While soccer may cull some of its talent from the basketball and wrestling programs – or see some its talent defect – the consensus amongst the Valley Oak League’s brass is that it will create far more opportunity.

Collectively, coaches and administrators around the VOL are cultivating a multi-sport culture on their campuses. The VOL recently adopted patches to honor its two- and three-sport athletes.

The patches will be introduced next year.

“It will create some facilities issues, as well as some coaching issues. There will be a demand for more officials, but those are problems we have anyways,” Chapman said, noting that student-athletes on campus are already abuzz about the news.

“It’s up to the athletic directors to minimize those problems.”

The move was met with mixed emotions around the area, though.

At Ripon Christian, first-year athletic director and girls soccer coach Kevin Tameling said the change will have an adverse effect on his athletic program.

Student-athletes at the small private school will have to choose between two sports many love to play – and play well.

The Knights have built basketball and soccer programs that routinely compete for league and section titles.

For instance, the boys and girls soccer programs are the reigning Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII champions. Both basketball programs made deep playoff runs this winter, and the girls hosted a first-round NorCal regional game.

Tameling, whose soccer team clinched an outright Southern League crown on Tuesday, counts 13 basketball players on his field, including scoring wizard Abby Buitrago.

“That’s half of my soccer program, at this point. Boys soccer would be about the same,” he said. “We have some players that will play club soccer or AAU basketball, but for the most part, we are a school where majority of our athletes are multi-sport. There are a few even that by the time they’re seniors, that are three-sport athletes.

“For some students, this will be good for them. Maybe they wanted to play football and basketball and now they’ll have that opportunity. From an individual standpoint it’s different for everybody. … But this will be an adjustment.”

Tameling said Ripon Christian, which competes in the Trans-Valley and Southern leagues, had little say in the voting process. A majority of the schools in each league voted in favor of the change, muffling the Knights’ disdain.

“At a small school, changes like this have a major effect on the way our school operates its athletic program,” Tameling said.

Manteca High’s Justin Coenenberg may be forced to choose between two programs. Coenenberg – like East Union’s Victor Polanco, Ripon’s Jamie DeBruyn and Oakdale’s Alfredo Quiroga – coaches both soccer programs.

“I love coaching both programs,” he said. “In a perfect world, (athletic director Dave Smith) and I will figure out a way I can do both.”

Still, the overwhelming response in the southern half of the Sac-Joaquin Section was to move soccer to the winter.

The prospects of a regional and state tournament were simply too appealing, especially for a power conference like the Valley Oak League.

Southern California sections already take part in a regional championship each winter.

The vaunted East Union girls soccer program rolled over teams en route to its first section title last year. The Lancers finished the season ranked seventh in MaxPreps’ state rankings, but never lost a game.

Now imagine, Chapman said, if East Union would have had a chance to compete for regional and state crowns?

“If we had this in place, you tell me they couldn’t compete at the regional or state level? Manteca and Sierra have had some good teams in the past. Oakdale has had some good teams,” he said. “I’d like to think we have some teams that are really good in soccer and they’re missing out on a chance to compete at a regional and state level.”