Come the fall of 2010, scholastic female athletes who are devoted to both soccer and field hockey will have to make a very difficult decision.

Friday, by a 22-7 vote, the PIAA Board of Directors elected to move the sport of girls' soccer from the spring to the fall beginning with the 2010-11 school year.

The move will force girls' soccer and field hockey, already a fall sport, to compete for athletes, and for those current multi-sport athletes to essentially make a choice as to which sport they will continue to play and which they will have to give up.

From a logistical standpoint, the vote makes perfect sense since it will bring all Pennsylvania girls' soccer teams under one roof, so to speak. Currently, certain portions of the state play girls' soccer in the fall, while the rest of the state, mostly in the District 3 area, offers the sport in the spring, something that has created a split state championship situation.

But for athletes and coaches of the two sports, the change represents a brave new world. And in some cases, a potentially unhappy one.

"From a field-hockey perspective, we have a lot of athletes who play soccer," said Palmyra field hockey coach Kristi Harshman. "We will lose some really great players (to soccer). It's just a shame athletes have to choose."

"It kinda hurts the pool of athletes you can pull from. It's gonna be smaller. It'll probably hurt us.



For his part, Northern Lebanon girls' soccer coach Mike Rittle was supportive of the move, and pleasantly surprised at the same time.

"I'm surprised it went, as strong as field hockey is in our area," said Rittle. "The nice part is there will be one state champion. Hopefully, it doesn't hurt field hockey."

Rittle also came up with another positive factor generated by the vote: Improved weather conditions.

"The nice thing is the weather won't be ugly," said Rittle with a chuckle, referring to the notoriously nasty weather that spring sports teams traditionally must contend with. "That would be a positive thing."

Elco athletic director Doug Bohannon, a member of the PIAA's Board of Control, voted in favor of the move, something that put him at odds with District 3's position on the matter. But Bohannon felt the PIAA's decision was the correct one in the long run.

"I actually like it," said Bohannon. "I personally think that's the way it should be. It doesn't make any sense to have a state championship for District 3 and one for the rest of the state."

The most negative impact will likely be felt at schools where one sport is more popular and successful than the other. For instance, Palmyra is traditionally a district and state title contender in field hockey but only moderately successful in girls' soccer.

Another potential problem associated with the move of girls' soccer to the fall is the issue of field availability. Some schools simply do not have the facilities to comfortably accommodate girls' and boys' soccer in the same season.

"I think field space is probably the biggest concern for athletic directors," said Rittle. "That's a headache I'm glad I don't have to deal with."