The Western Athletic Conference soccer standing took on a new look this fall.
In past seasons, the league was divided into two divisions - North and South. This year, the 12-team league opted to split into three divisions. The north division is composed of Northville, Mayfield, Galway and MeKeel Christian, while Fort Plain, Canajoharie, St. Johnsville and Sharon Springs comprise the Central, and Berne-Knox-Westerlo, Schoharie, Duanesburg and Middleburg make up the South.
"I like the realignment," St. Johnsville girls coach Zale Benton said. "The girls' side of the league pushed for it. We wanted to be able to have a couple of non-league games because our seeding system for sectionals is different than the boys. The only way we could do it equitably, with the number of teams we have in the league, was to go with three divisions. Jim Gillis did a nice job breaking it up and realigning it so that everybody got two non-league games."
Fort Plain’s Marcus Failing (8) and Northville defender Barcley Hayward (21) battle for possession of the ball as the Falcons’ Matt Scunziano (18) closes on the play during second-half action of the Western Athletic Conference match Sept. 17 in Fort Plain. Due to the realignment of the WAC, it was the only time the Hilltoppers and Falcons would play each other after being division rivals in the old WAC North when the league had two divisions. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
Benton explained that the sectional seeding process for postseason play is different for the boys and girls teams.
"I am the head of the league and have been petitioning and asking the athletic directors to revisit it for years to find a different way to do the scheduling because when sectional seeding comes around, the girls use a different formula than the boys," she said.
The boys use a points system that uses winning percentage to determine sectional seeding, Benton said.
With the realignment, the teams play the squads in their division twice and everybody else in the league once, leaving room for a pair of non-league games.
"There are some teams you look forward to playing both home and away and it is a shame to lose those," Northville boys coach Steve Clapper said. "Ultimately, I do like the competition we are playing with because we ended up in kind of a tougher bracket, at least this year. Throughout the past five years, with the boys soccer, the teams that have been playing consistently well have been Northville, Mayfield, Mekeel Christian and Galway. It makes for a tough division. I think it gives us some very good competition, but there are games for us, like the Fort Plain games, which are great competitions that we don't have twice now."
Clapper said that being able to schedule non-league games is a positive.
"It did open up the schedule for two non-league games for us and we picked up Fonda-Fultonville," he said. "I always enjoyed having the opportunity to play those non-league matches because of the possibilities like we used to play in the Fulton County Cup. But we had to get out of that when the league basically used up our entire schedule."
Logistically, playing the teams in close proximity did help cut back on travel.
"We did look at the realignment so it would be easier for travel like they do with the modified teams," Benton said. "One of the problems is that our league is huge."
Clapper said he doesn't believe the new alignment has helped cut travel that much
"With the teams out of our division, half of them are away and half are home. We still have our long trips," he said.
The realignment was applied to the soccer teams only and not volleyball, golf and cross-country.
"It has been discussed several different times," Fort Plain athletic director Charlie Karker said. "Even before Spa Catholic [soccer] left, they thought it would be an interesting idea. Then we got down to 12 teams and thought now was a good opportunity to go three divisions."
The three-division setup will not transfer to the winter and spring sports seasons.
"Not this year because Spa Catholic is coming back into the fold in the winter and spring," Karker said.
It is even unsure if the league will stay with three or revert to two divisions for the 2013 fall soccer season because there is the chance of Saratoga Catholic returning to the league, or a team moving out of the league.
"Ultimately, we use our season to prepare for the postseason, which is our ultimate goal," Clapper said. "League championships are always great, but ultimately, our goal is the postseason. Whatever is put before us, two divisions or three divisions, we take the opportunities to get ready."