Messalonskee field hockey head coach Katie McCabe runs practice on Sept. 2 in Oakland. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

The Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference is slowly working toward a fall schedule that will focus on regional play in all the sports it can offer, including field hockey, soccer, golf and cross country.

However, compiling schedules is like building puzzles with missing pieces because several KVAC schools are still deciding if they can offer athletics this fall.

The KVAC, which has 28 member schools, is one of the largest conferences in the state.

KVAC athletic directors met Monday morning to discuss the season, and although little progress was made, conference president KJ Anastasio of Lincoln Academy anticipates schedules could come together quickly as schools continue try to offer sports as safely as possible in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We know we’re up against a time crunch with scheduling, and transportation, and finding officials,” Anastasio said. “We’re all anxious to get going.”

The Maine Principals’ Association announced on Sept. 10 it had reached an agreement with state officials on all COVID-19 safety measures for resuming some high school athletics during the pandemic. The MPA will not offer tackle football and indoor volleyball this fall. Instead, those sports hope to compete in late winter/early spring.

Team practices for the other sports began Monday, although several schools held off pending final approval from their districts.

High school athletic events can begin Sept. 25, with golf matches on Sept. 23.

The decision to postpone the fall volleyball and football seasons gave the KVAC a little more clarity to move forward with the other fall sports.

“There’s definitely progress being made. The tone of our meeting was more positive than the last few weeks,” Messalonskee athletic director Chad Foye said.

Several KVAC athletic directors are still waiting final approval from their school boards before they allow team practices to begin. Approximately a dozen of the KVAC’s 28 members are awaiting final approval, Anastasio said.

Camden Hills is the only KVAC school to opt out of competition, although it reversed course Monday when it announced it would offer golf and cross country. The school still will not offer soccer and field hockey this fall.

“We feel confident that we can allow interscholastic golf and cross country to occur following the recommended guidelines from the MPA that came out on Thursday, Sept. 10, and have made some changes to our original plan,” Five Town Community School District Superintendent Maria Libby, Camden Hills Principal Shawn Carlson, and athletic director Jeff Hart wrote in a letter to their community.

Waterville and Winslow school boards were scheduled to decide on fall sports in meetings Monday evening. Lawrence has the issue on the agenda for a Thursday meeting, as does Skowhegan.

“We’re approved through the next meeting. We’re proceeding like it’s all going to happen,” Skowhegan AD Jon Christopher said.

Creating schedules is complicated because not all schools may be prepared to begin interscholastic competition in time by Sept. 25.

Messalonskee soccer players Owen Axelson, right, and Cooper Barrett work through drills with teammates on Aug. 25 in Oakland. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Schools will schedule opponents in their own or adjacent counties. This allows for Brunswick High School, the only KVAC member in Cumberland County, to schedule games against rivals like Mt. Ararat, which is in Sagadahoc County in Topsham, and Androscoggin County schools like Lewiston and Edward Little. Somerset County schools like Skowhegan and Lawrence can face Kennebec County opponents like Waterville, Messalonskee, and Winslow, as well as Franklin County’s Mt. Blue.

“I think we have a pretty good tentative schedule. We have a rough sketch and we’re making sure everyone has school board approval. I think we have a pretty good tentative schedule, but if it doesn’t work out we’ll work with the other schools and make it work,” Lewiston athletic director Jason Fuller said.

For some schools, playing opponents outside the KVAC is an option. Oxford Hills athletic director Kevin Ryan will make a presentation to his school board on Sept. 21, recommending the school goes forward with all allowed sports. Among the schools the Vikings could face are non-KVAC foes Poland, Fryeburg and Lake Region.

“We (Oxford Hills) are making a tentative schedule right now; we’ll make adjustments as needed,” Ryan said.

The conference’s athletic directors are keeping all options on the table, Anastasio said.

“You look at the KVAC, everybody in the conference is pretty supportive of sports, and there’s a lot of tradition,” Foye said. “We know it’s going to be a short season. With golf, where it’s such a short season already, moving the start date back makes it really short.”

According to the MPA, matches can begin on Sept. 23, with individual and team championships scheduled for Oct. 9-10.

Transportation also will impact scheduling. With limits on how many students can ride a bus at one time, some schools are forced to use multiple buses to travel to games, or wait until buses are available.

Field hockey and soccer teams can play a maximum of 10 games, with the season ending on or before Nov. 14.

“I can’t load a bus (for an away game) until 3:30 because I have some bus drivers doing double routes to get kids home (after school),” Christopher said.

With days getting shorter, it’s possible games may need to be moved to facilities with lights.

“Would we slide soccer on to our football field so we can use the lights and get in a full JV game? Maybe,” Christopher said.

With no soccer or field hockey postseason, schools have time in November to schedule games.

“There’s a lot of questions to work out, but we’ll make it happen,” Christopher said.

 

Sun Journal Staff Writer Randy Whitehouse contributed to this story.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

 

 

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