The Saints will be moving from the Mountain Valley Conference to the Western Maine Conference beginning with the Fall 2016 sports season.

It will be a return trip for St. Dom’s, which was previously a member of the WMC before moving to the MVC before the 2009-10 school year.

The wheels on the move began turning this past fall, when new St. Dom’s Athletic Director Keith Weatherbie said he realized his athletic program’s diverse sports offerings fell in line better with the WMC than the MVC. St. Dom’s has teams in swimming, indoor track and lacrosse — sports the MVC doesn’t sponsor.

“We have to go outside our conference in order to get schedules for those activities, whereas in the Western Maine Conference, they’re all part of the conference scheduling there,” Weatherbie said.

It was Weatherbie who spearheaded the move, but discussed it at length with Assistant AD Kat McKay, the St. Dom’s administration, and coaches.

“The consensus of opinion was that for us, it was a better fit to be in the Western Maine Conference,” Weatherbie said.

Being in a conference that schedules a larger variety of sports was just one factor Weatherbie considered. Saints teams in those sports weren’t able to participate in a conference championships, meaning there was as much as a three-week wait between the end of the regular season and the state championships.

Jumping to the WMC also allows St. Dom’s to compete against Waynflete School in Portland and North Yarmouth Academy in Yarmouth — schools with similar profiles as small, private institutions.

“I think that bringing back the old rivalries is very important to us,” St. Dom’s boys’ soccer coach Marty Bressler said.

Bressler admitted that his program will likely take some lumps over the next few years, having to face large-class powerhouses Falmouth and Yarmouth, in addition to perennial Class C contenders in Waynflete and NYA.

“Every game is going to be an absolute battle, and it will be exceptionally difficult to make the playoffs every season,” Bressler said. “And I think as far as player progression and just motivation for the postseason, I think that is absolutely key.”

Both Saints soccer teams lost to WMC teams in the playoffs this year — the boys to Sacopee Valley of Hiram, the girls to Waynflete.

The move will be mutually beneficial for the Saints’ new conference-mates as well.

“This addition will be a huge improvement for scheduling in our conference,” Waynflete AD Ross Burdick said, who added that his teams always enjoyed competitive games with St. Dom’s.

The Saints will have to travel near and far for games in the WMC. Poland and Gray-New Gloucester provide neighboring schools, while Traip Academy in Kittery will be a longer commute.

Travel to Kittery — or many of the other schools along the I-95 corridor — doesn’t faze Weatherbie, who noted that proximity to the highway makes road trips to Traip or Old Orchard Beach easier than expeditions to MVC schools like Madison and Carrabec.

The WMC is heavy with Class B schools, while the MVC is Class C-heavy. WMC President Sue Thurston, who is the athletic director at Fryeburg Academy, said the Saints won’t be playing out of their league in their new league.

“The WMC is so big, with 18 schools, that scheduling is matched by strength of programs and classification,” Thurston said. “We do offer a lot of flexibility that smaller conferences can’t offer and we look out for each other with creative scheduling as well.”

Poland AD Don King said adding another Class C school will only aid in that scheduling for the conference’s smaller schools. Not to mention it provides for another quality opponent in many sports.

“Although St. Dom’s is a Class C school for most sports based on enrollment, they are a competitive school and provide for good athletic environment,” King said.

Those associated with St. Dom’s long enough remember what life was like when the Saints were in the WMC. Weatherbie arrived at St. Dom’s the same year it moved to the MVC, but prior to that, that he spent four decades at WMC member Cape Elizabeth High School, 21 years of that time as the AD.

“We’re moving into a very, very competitive conference,” Weatherbie said. “Probably the most competitive conference in Maine.”

The Saints found success during their tenure in the MVC, but Weatherbie said in hindsight, the school probably should have stayed in the WMC all along.

The WMC’s gain will be the MVC’s loss. Weatherbie said there are good people in the MVC and he hopes the conference’s members understand the reasoning for St. Dom’s move.

The Saints will be the WMC’s 18th full-time member, while the MVC now will have 13.

MVC President Chris Leblanc, who is the coordinator of student services at Madison Area Memorial High School, said the conference will move on and will survive.

“It is unfortunate that St. Dominic Academy is leaving the MVC, but we respect their decision and wish them well,” Leblanc said on behalf of the league. “The Mountain Valley Conference will remain a balanced and competitive league.”

Thurston said the WMC is “very excited” to bring St. Dom’s on board, a sentiment that King and Burdick echoed.

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