After an absence of several years, boys varsity soccer will be back at Mount St. Joseph Academy in Rutland next fall.
It made perfect sense to reinstate the sport, said Athletic Director Phil Hall.
First of all, Hall said, the two schools funneling the most students into MSJ are Christ the King and Barstow in Chittenden — both schools where soccer is an important ingredient of the extracurricular package.
“We probably lost some boys because we didn’t have soccer,” Hall said.
There was also plenty of interest from within the walls of MSJ itself. Hall said he was approached by several students expressing an interest in playing soccer, Some of these were international students from Haiti, Korea and China.
Four of MSJ’s students last fall played for the Division IV boys state championship Proctor team through a member-to-member agreement. The four were important contributors to the Phantoms’ success.
There could be ramifications at Proctor, where the roster would have numbered 15 without the four players from MSJ. The Phantoms graduated seven seniors from the title team.
“I know we had a great relationship with MSJ and their four students had a good experience,” Proctor coach Chad Wilson said.
Proctor Athletic Director Jake Eaton said the loss of MSJ players could impact his boys soccer program in the next year or two but he sees the program as being healthy after that.
“I think it will hurt in the immediate future but we have great numbers down below,” he said, citing a robust turnout of boys playing soccer in the fifth and sixth grades.
“Obviously, those MSJ players were a huge help. They were a big part of what we did,” Eaton said.
“We are pretty excited,” Hall said, adding that he knows the Mounties have the numbers and interest to support the program.
“I know we have the numbers to have a team right now,” he said.
The Mounties will not be members of the Marble Valley League their first two years but will be competing as a Division IV independent.
They are, however, eligible immediately to compete in the Division IV state tournament.
Hall said a 30 percent rise in enrollment and the considerable interest in soccer from the student body meant that a member-to-member agreement with another school could no longer satisfy the demand for boys soccer at MSJ.
Hall said the MVL athletic directors have been helpful in piecing together a schedule for MSJ and they have 10 games at this time. Outside the MVL, they have games with Chelsea and South Royalton so far.
The process of hiring a coach is in progress.
“We have started our search and are narrowing it down,” Hall said.
The Mounties will use the Abatiell Field complex off Meadow Street just as the school’s girls soccer team does. There are two adjacent fields there and they will be shared among the soccer teams at MSJ and Christ the King.
Football has long been the flagship sport at MSJ, boasting one of the state’s most successful Division I programs for years.
Declining enrollment forced the Mounties to drop down to Division III and then enter into a co-op program in football with Poultney High School.
The MSJ girls soccer program has been extremely successful. The Mounties made it to the D-IV state semifinals in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Last year they came about as close as possible to the semifinals again, losing on the penalty-kick tiebeaker format to eventual state champion Proctor in the quarterfinal round. The Mounties have also claimed the title of Arlington’s Werner Tournament four consecutive years.
Now, for the first time since 2011, the boys get their chance to make their mark on the soccer pitch.