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WLC first local school to approve NHIAA fall sports; ConVal, Conant, Mascenic still undecided

  • Sam Boette and the WLC girls' soccer team are looking forward to the fall sports season. Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 8/5/2020 2:16:34 PM

After the NHIAA gave its approval for a fall high school sports season, the final decisions of whether or not to participate were left up to the individual school districts. Wilton-Lyndeborough, ConVal, Conant and Mascenic are all working towards getting their athletes in action this fall.

WLC was the first local school district to officially approve fall sports for both the middle and high schools. The school board voted 7-1 in favor at a July 28 meeting, meaning the Warriors will move ahead with boys’ and girls’ soccer under the NHIAA’s new guidelines, which allow practices starting Sept. 8.

Rising junior Sam Boette of the WLC girls’ soccer team was excited to hear the news that her team would be back on the field this fall. Boette was a key member of the Warriors’ resurgence in 2019 before tearing her ACL in the final regular season game and missing the playoffs. Since then, she’s had to deal with surgery, rehabilitation and then, the potential of COVID-19 wiping out her junior season.

“It has been extremely difficult dealing with the thought of potentially not having a season,” Boette said, “especially after how far we came last year.”

Boette said she and her Warrior teammates have had their mental toughness tested by the uncertainty and the inability to get together and prepare for the season over the summer.

“Overall, I am relieved that we now have a date to start as it is something to look forward to in these times,” Boette said.

She expects to be medically cleared to return to play sometime in September, but even being on the sidelines with her teammates will be a big step in the right direction.

”We all get along so well and make so many great memories,” Boette said. “Even through all the ups and downs we always came back together as a team, I have truly missed that part about it.”

WLC’s girls team is seeking a new head coach for the upcoming season after Dan Ayotte chose to step away from the team.

The Warrior boys will have a new coach this fall as well, as Dan Nelson takes over the position vacated by Kristin Schwab.

“I’m excited to be the coach for the upcoming season,” Nelson said.

Nelson, a 1991 Wilton-Lyndeborough graduate, has been coaching soccer in the area for about nine years, at the middle school, WJAA and at the Hampshire Dome. He hopes to bring a hybrid style of soccer to the Warrior boys, combined classic, old-fashioned boom-ball with more modern strategies and techniques.

It’s an unusual time to take over a program, with COVID-19 restrictions in place. Normally, Nelson said, his team would already be playing on their own without coaching to prepare for a start around Labor Day. But however the season takes shape, Nelson hopes his kids will have fun and make the most of the competition.

“When it comes to safety, it’s up to the NHIAA and if they allow things to go forward, I’ll try to practice the kids the safest way we can,” Nelson said. “Keep your chins up and enjoy what were allowed to have – I’m going to instill a positive attitude going forward.”

None of the other local public high schools have committed to participating in the NHIAA season as of yet.

ConVal is prepared to facilitate skills and drills, and potentially intramural sports as part of the reopening plan passed on Aug. 4. Superintendent Kimberly Rizzo Saunders said the District was waiting for a more committed response from the NHIAA before making a decision on participating, citing the NE 10’s decision to cancel fall sports and New Hampshire’s state epidemiologist warning against contact sports. Reconciling athletic programs with the high school’s “blue and gold” team model presents its own challenges, as the COVID-19 prevention plan sends students from the district’s northern and southern towns to school on alternating weeks. Rizzo Saunders acknowledged that the choice to cancel fall sports might push some students to participate in regional leagues, with potential exposure to COVID-19 from farther-flung locales, and the administrators were weighing the risk of all options.

Mascenic has yet to make an official ruling on a fall sports season one way or the other. At a recent School Board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Christine Martin said that everything within the district’s resources will be executed to support a sports season under the NHIAA’s guidance. Martin said Wednesday that a proposal for the fall season will be presented at Monday’s board meeting.

Mascenic is currently without a high school athletic director, as Kevin Rines stepped down earlier this year, leaving the position vacant. Martin said that final interviews have been conducted and the district hopes to present a candidate at Monday’s meeting as well.

The Jaffrey-Rindge School District is also yet to make a final determination on the fall season. They did address the fall coaching nominations at a recent school board meeting, district representative Nicholas Handy said, in order to be ready to go when the decision is made.

Reporter Abbe Hamilton contributed to this report.


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