LP high schoolers start soccer practice

Varsity teams are finally on the field, but still unsure about playing

News photo — Lou Reuter Members of the Lake Placid girls varsity soccer team work on their skills during their second practice of the season held Tuesday on their home turf at the James Kordziel athletic fields.

LAKE PLACID — Better late than never, and then some.

On a warm Monday afternoon, the Lake Placid boys and girls varsity soccer teams finally stepped out on the pitch as public high school programs across New York state were allowed to begin practicing.

Two practices into a season that has been delayed and altered in a big way by the coronavirus pandemic, the Blue Bombers don’t know if they will actually end up competing against other schools this fall. Players on both the boys and girls squads certainly hope they’ll have some type of competitive schedule in the coming weeks, but for now, they’ve just been happy to be out in the sunshine training with their teammates.

“There are no expectations whatsoever,” said girls head coach Brendan Gotham when asked if he thought his players will compete. “We’re just taking it week by week. Once we get 10 practices in, we’d like to play whoever wants to play us. I’d love to see that happen, that’s what the girls want, and hopefully, that will be the case. I just don’t know.”

Gotham coached the girls varsity squad four years ago for one season and returned this fall to fill in for the team’s previous head coach, Heather Brewer, who is expected back in the future. He’s got a roster of 19 players and said being able to start practice was a relief.

“It felt so good to be back,” he said. “Although we all had masks, everybody was saying that it almost felt like things are getting back to normal. I tell the girls everyday that we’re just happy to be here.”

The girls roster includes an eighth-grader, one freshman and a mix of 10th and 11th graders and seniors.

“Even if the girls don’t play, they have to be happy being here,” Gotham said. “The seniors need to enjoy every day, and the underclassmen, they have to look at this as building for next year.”

While the girls practiced on their regular game venue inside the high school track at the James Kordziel athletic fields, the varsity boys were training on their usual home pitch nearby. Longtime head coach Stuart Hemsley is back leading the team with the help of assistant Brian Brandes.

Like Gotham, Hemsley said it was exciting having the team together.

“It was nice to be out there in the fresh air,” Hemsley said. “It was just good to get the boys outside training. They’ve been all trapped up and told they can’t do anything since March, so this is a sign of some progress. Considering most of the kids haven’t kicked a ball in a year, they’re looking pretty good. They are enjoying their mask breaks.”

The Blue Bombers don’t have junior varsity soccer teams this season, so the boys also have solid numbers with around 20 on the varsity roster. The boys and girls modified programs are expected to begin practicing in about a week.

“I don’t know if we will play, but we are preparing to play,” Hemsley said. “I’d really like to see our seniors especially, have some kind of season. Maybe we will, maybe we won’t or maybe we’ll start and then the season might be canceled. Everything is day-to-day. At at least for now, the kids are out there together kicking the ball around.”