All seemed right within the Mountain Valley Conference for the upcoming soccer season.

That was until August, when a late decision turned the conference — and its schedule — upside down and in need of a last-minute fix to keep balance within the schedule of the conference, which is comprised of 15 schools.

In mid-August, the Wiscasset/Boothbay boys and girls soccer teams were forced to pull out of a varsity season due to low numbers. It was a difficult decision for Wiscasset athletic director Cam Bishop, who had just taken over the position.

“I knew, coming into this job, that numbers were pretty low,” Bishop said. “I knew in early August, during the hands-off period, we were going to be cutting it pretty close, numbers-wise. I want to say it was right around the first couple days of the preseason. If we could have gotten a couple more girls out, obviously I would have decided to play a varsity schedule. But throughout that first week, we had between 8 to 11 girls showing up consistently.”

“With the boys, I’ve only been seeing five to six (players) show up on a routine basis,” Bishop continued. “I kind of had to cancel that season completely. The plan has been, moving forward, if seven or more boys started showing up, I could schedule some seven-on-seven games, potentially. With respect to the girls, we were hovering right around 11 and I didn’t want to risk ineligibility or injuries leading us to possibly forfeit games and dealing with a (Maine Principals’ Association) violation. Our plan is to have as many (junior varsity) games as possible. I’m still waiting on other schools finalizing their schedules, there’s (player) issues everywhere.”

Wiscasset/Boothbay is a co-op program, not unusual in the MVC, which is largely comprised of schools with small student populations. Over the years, Winthrop and Monmouth have joined together in football and girls soccer (though both schools remain separate in boys soccer). Hall-Dale has also joined with the two schools to form the Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale football team. Madison has joined with Carrabec for football and merged baseball teams in 2016 to form the Bridgeway Bandits (both schools are back to having its own baseball teams).


Despite the co-op, Wiscasset/Boothbay simply did not have the numbers. It unfortunately hasn’t been uncommon in the past for an MVC team to pull out of a season.

“We had to put a byline in (the MVC) constitution, stating people will be assessed a $250 fine if they canceled once the schedules were entered by the MPA deadline, because it happened so much” said Winthrop athletic director Joel Stoneton. “I don’t think people outside the AD and coaching world know how much work it takes to create a schedule and then pull it at the last minute.”

Wiscasset’s Annaleise Hunter, left, and Gardiner’s Lilly Diversi compete for the ball during a preseason game Aug. 20 in Richmond. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file photo

Without Wiscasset/Boothbay, it left one less team in conference play, taking at least one game — and for some teams, two games — off the schedule. It wasn’t so much the loss of a game or two — the conference has contingency plans for 10, 11 or 12 team seasons — but the timing and loss of a conference opponent threw off the balance of conference play, important in the fact the MVC has a conference championship game for both boys and girls soccer at the end of the regular season.

“This is my third year as an athletic director, and I had no idea (beforehand) of the complexity of when you try to balance schedules,” said Hall-Dale athletic director Chris Ranslow. “Not all (MVC schools) have boys soccer or girls soccer. Consequently, you have a schedule where everybody plays everybody once. Some teams play teams twice. It’s not as easy as kind of erasing one of the lines on Wiscasset/Boothbay’s common opponents… Now you’ve got some teams that have two holes. You’ve got to go back to the drawing board and see what are those holes.

“After you figure out how you’re going to balance this back out, now you have to go through a secondary sort and make sure for conference play, everybody has five home and five away games,” Ranslow continued. “That’s when you start to pull your hair out. It’s so hard…. The problem is, we’ve already arranged all of our transportation and whistles, according to our (original) outline.”

Marc Keller, the athletic director at Spruce Mountain High School in Jay and soccer liaison for the MVC, was responsible for ultimately correcting the conference schedule. While John Bernard of the MPA is traditionally the master scheduler for the conference, Keller managed to fix the problem quickly. He said all it took was a late night planning session at home and some help from his fiancee, Paula.


“It actually wasn’t real hard,” Keller said. “It was just taking (Wiscasset/Boothbay) out and seeing where the holes were. The hardest part was making sure that everybody had seven home (games) and seven away. When it comes to our conference championship, everybody plays everybody once, and again, just making sure those 10 (conference) games were five home and five away. I think my fiancee and I sat up until midnight trying to figure it out. She’s a good sport. She’s an athlete at heart and has kids that play, too, so she has an interest in it. We just took a look at it, at this possibility and that possibility. It came out that we had one glitch once it was finalized. One team had eight home games and six away and another team had six home games and eight away. By looking at my schedule, we were just able to flip-flop them and give them seven and seven and it worked out for everybody that way.”

Stoneton gave Keller credit for being able to make the schedule work so soon.

“I can’t give him enough credit for straightening this situation out,” Stoneton said. “You have to take into consideration, some dates were untouchable because, ‘Hey, that’s my homecoming (game). I’m playing a night game here.’ Some of those things became impacted. But he did a great job making it work.”

Bishop said he is hopeful both Wiscasset/Boothbay soccer programs will be back at the varsity level soon.

“I’m looking at the middle school roster for boys, there’s 17 on the roster, quite a few 8th graders,” Bishop said. “My hope is next year, hopefully we can move forward with a varsity season, maybe add a couple of more boys as well. The girls, at the end of last year, they had 27 signed up for middle school soccer this fall. We haven’t had that number up here, but my goal coming into this was to focus on those younger age groups and try to attract more kids to come out and really build a strong base for the future.”

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