Declining enrollment in North Fork schools may force two girls soccer programs to combine into one.
Mattituck High School athletic director Gregg Wormuth said the concept of combining the Mattituck and Southold/Greenport programs is still in its preliminary stage and a final decision isn’t due to Section XI — the governing body for Suffolk County sports — until Feb. 1. At last Thursday’s Mattituck-Cutchogue Board of Education meeting, he said athletic directors from all three districts see combing the teams as their best option.
“I would then recommend really taking a hard look at what is the future of our girls soccer program along with our neighbors and seeing if collectively combining would make the most sense and give the best opportunity for those girls who participate in soccer to play at the appropriate level as well,” he said.
For the past two years, Mattituck has offered only a varsity program in girls soccer. Southold and Greenport, which combine to make one team, have done the same, Mr. Wormuth said.
Greenport athletic director Chris Golden confirmed that the athletic directors have met and agreed that combining teams could give students an opportunity to play at their appropriate level, whether it be varsity or junior varsity.
The varsity teams both had successful seasons this past fall, posting identical 12-4 records in League VII. Southold/Greenport won the Class C county championship and Mattituck lost in the finals of the Class B county championship. A team comprising players from all three schools would compete at Class B, according to classification numbers for the 2017-18 season.
Mr. Wormuth said Greenport and Southold combined expect to have 15 girls interested in playing soccer in the upcoming fall season. Mattituck predicts it will have 26 girls in grades 9-12 interested in playing next year.
“I agree with the recommendation,” school board president Charles Anderson said. “You can’t have a team thinking you have 15 [players] and then the season starts and you have 13 and then someone gets hurt and next thing you know you can’t field a team.”
Mr. Wormuth said one of the difficulties that come with offering only a varsity team is that it forces some of the younger girls in ninth or 10th grade to play at a level they might not be ready for.
He added that combining the three districts to create one program yields a projected 41 players, allowing for the creation of both a JV and varsity team.
“I know there are probably a lot of questions in people’s minds, like who would host and what colors would they wear, and between the three of us we can put together a pretty good plan for how that partnership can be represented in all districts,” Mr. Wormuth said.
He said he sees the partnership as a 50/50 split where numerous things, such as coaching staff, can be shared.
The decision to potentially combine the soccer teams comes only months after Mattituck, the host of a combined North Fork boys lacrosse program, announced that Greenport students couldn’t play on the varsity team this spring. Interested Greenport boys can, however, play on the JV team.
When asked by board member Barbara Talbot, Mr. Wormuth said that girls lacrosse is the next sport that could possibly face consolidation based on enrollment numbers, although there is no set time in the foreseeable future when that might happen. The girls lacrosse team last year featured Mattituck and Southold.
“If we continue to have the same offerings and we can’t support them with our numbers then I think eventually that’s the way we’d have to go,” he said. “Unless we decide that dropping programs is what we’re about — and I don’t think that’s our intent. I think we’ll have to look to combine in some other things as well down the road.”
It’s not uncommon for North Fork sports teams to combine, especially Greenport and Southold. Greenport, for example, fields independent teams only in boys basketball, baseball and boys soccer.
Mattituck has a rich history for its girls team. Since 1988, the team has won 14 county titles, highlighted by a 2005 Class B state championship.
Photo caption: Southold/Greenport’s Jill Golden finds herself flanked by Mattituck’s Brianna Fox (10) and Maddie Schmidt (6) during a game this fall. (Credit: Bob Liepa)
WITH JOE WERKMEISTER