CLIFTON PARK – Late last month, at least 20 Shenendehowa varsity boys’ soccer players were placed in COVID-19 quarantine protocol due to an exposure during a New York Elite FC club soccer practice.
The players are now out of quarantine, but their absence from the practice field for nine sessions necessitated that both Saturday’s season-opening game vs. Guilderland and next Tuesday’s game vs. Shaker for the Plainsmen have been postponed.
“We had upwards of around 20 students that were quarantined as a result of an exposure at a club soccer practice,” Shenendehowa athletic director Chris Culnan said Friday. “Due to the fact that they were not able to get the 10 practices in [mandated by] the New York State Public High School Athletic Association guidelines, we worked with our member schools in the league and chose to postpone the first two games.”
Athletic contests have been underway in Section II since last week and practices began Sept. 21 for programs participating this fall season, Saturday is set to be the area’s first day with a wide range of games, matches and meets. Teams are set to compete Saturday in cross country, field hockey, golf, soccer and tennis.
The Suburban Council and the Patroon Conference are the only Section II leagues playing soccer this fall. Several leagues — plus Suburban Council schools Ballston Spa and Bethlehem — opted to postpone soccer until the “Fall II” season the NYSPHSAA had originally scheduled to house seasons for football, volleyball and fall competitive cheer since they were deemed “high risk” by state health officials and are currently not allowed to compete.
Since the creation of the “Fall II” season that will take place in March and April, several area leagues moved all or some traditional fall sports to it besides football, volleyball and fall competitive cheer.
LeeAnn Miles, executive administrator at New York Elite FC, said the coronavirus exposure traces back to the final club practice of the summer session in mid-September, two days before the individual tested positive for COVID-19.
Miles — who is the wife of the club’s executive director Miles Joseph, a former Shenendehowa star who played in the 1996 Sunmer Olympics for the U.S. men’s national team — said the club was informed by the Saratoga County Department of Health six days after the final practice session, and immediately sent out an organization-wide email alerting its players, parents and coaches.
“All the students returned this week to both school and interscholastic practice this week,” Culnan said.
Niskayuna boys’ soccer head coach Terrence Sloan, who serves as the Suburban Council’s league representative for the sport, said that besides the 20 Plainsmen players, competitors from Albany, Ballston Spa and Niskayuna were also exposed. The lone affected Albany varsity player and Niskayuna JV player will also miss two games to start the season.
Sloan said no other games needed to be postponed besides the two involving Shenendehowa.
The NYSPHSAA’s provided guidance for “low” and “moderate” risk sports includes that athletes are required to wear face coverings during practice and competition unless players are unable to tolerate a face covering for the physical activity. Coaches, trainers, and others on the sidelines are required to wear a face covering.
The Eastern New York Soccer Youth Soccer Association, of which the New York Elite FC is a member, mandates that players must wear a mask to and from the field and when on the bench, but not during play.
“I think our kids learned a valuable lesson – the importance of wearing masks, whether you are playing at a club game or you’re playing at a high school event,” Culnan said. “It’s important to make sure you’re wearing your mask and do what you need to do.”
Shenendehowa is one of the Suburban Council’s, and Section II’s, traditional powers. The Plainsmen are coming off a 2019 season in which they advanced to the Class AA state semifinals.
Shenendehowa coach Jonathan Bain, who is also the director of coaching for New York Elite FC, is now focused on preparing his squad with all 28 players back able to practice.
“It’s definitely disappointing because when you start your high school season you want all your guys there,” Bain said. “Obviously, many of them couldn’t be there.”