CLIFTON PARK — The theme for this year’s Shenendehowa girls’ soccer team could be “Go big or go home.”
The Plainsmen have 16 players from last year’s squad, including 12 seniors. Due to changes by the Suburban Council, teams will only offer varsity and junior varsity squads.
Last year, Shenendehowa offered two modified teams, and that helped create an eye-popping 27-player roster for varsity head coach Holli Nirsberger.
“I knew that if we could get out here, which I’m grateful for the opportunity, that it would be amazing for all of our current athletes,” Nirsberger said. “Thinking long game, having both our modified teams not playing, you have to think two, three years out.
“We’re trying to focus on the opportunity in front of us this year, but also develop the program over the next two, three, even four years.”
The coaching staff will look for ways to accommodate its 27 varsity players, their respective parents along with the COVID-19 situation that saw two Suburban Council teams opt out of the fall season, Bethlehem and Ballston Spa.
The Suburban Council is also one of just three leagues playing soccer this fall, with five other leagues opting for a Fall II March 1 start.
“In conversations with other coaches, that it is our responsibility to try and get it right, too, for everybody coming behind us that may not have had a season last year,” Nirsberger said. “Half of learning this whole new 27-[player] roster is also learning how to play with a mask.”
Section II ceased its spring seasons less than a week in, making this fall the first season for several Shenendehowa multi-sport seniors.
Ava Caputo lost her junior softball season. She hopes to get her senior sports seasons in, even if it is this fall with the largest roster on record for the Plainsmen.
“It’s just part of being a team player when you have a big roster like that,” Caputo said. “Everyone has their own role on the team, whether that be on the field, on the sidelines, everyone is just working together. I think you can keep everyone happy.”
Senior Sophia DeMura lost her junior outdoor track season and watched anxiously as other leagues postponed their soccer seasons.
“I was very nervous that the Suburban Council would opt out of it because it is my senior year, I was really looking forward to it,” DeMura said. “I was very happy to hear that we were playing this year, that I would be able to get my senior season in [and] hopefully make a difference than I have in the past.”
Athletes understand that they must remain healthy to stay in the game, that now includes COVID precautions.
“This year, people are respecting that fact that we can’t do as much as we would have in the past with COVID and everything, we do have to wear a mask at practice,” DeMura said. “It’s definitely hard to get used to, but it’s something that we’re willing to do if it means that we get our season in.”
Shenendehowa will open the season at 3 p.m. Saturday at Guilderland.