A second season on the chopping block
District 56 Superintendent Dr. David O'Shields has decided to allow Clinton High School lacrosse to play this season (already scheduled) and next season, then possibly be allowed to "sunset". This would give the current seniors their final season, and juniors their senior season. After that, the sport could be replaced with girls soccer, or both lacrosse and girls soccer could be offered at Clinton High School.
The ultimate decision could rest with the next Clinton High Athletics Director, O'Shields said, "whoever that might be."
Current AD Dr. David Barnes did not attend a meeting tonight between O'Shields and lacrosse players, coaches and parents. Barnes told the group last Thursday, this will be the final season for CHS lacrosse, which started as a club sports originated by players. It evolved into a varsity sports, but it doesn't have a region, like all the other varsity sports. Lacrosse Coach Ami Vaughn told O'Shields the SC High School League is considering a special arrangement for lacrosse - having districts, instead of regions. O'Shields said if that happens, it could save CHS lacrosse, but he added he is committed to having a girls soccer program - and likely JV soccer programs for boys and girls - at District 56's flagship school. O'Shields said he has wanted to institute girls soccer at CHS for five years.
His daughter Maggie played CHS lacrosse. He was asked questions about Barnes' announcement during last weekend's middle school Science Olympiad competition. O'Shields and his wife Terri are coaches for the Clinton Middle School Science Olympiad Team, which won the state title in competion at Newberry College. O'Shields said during tonight's meeting in the CHS library, after Barnes announced the decision to eliminate lacrosse, he felt the "passion, love, interest" unique to lacrosse players and parents. One lacrosse parent said, "This should never happen again - we were blindsided."
Clinton is one of only 4 AAA schools in South Carolina that offers lacrosse - Bishop England in Charleston has two teams. Most schools offering the sport are larger, and will be AAAA and AAAAA schools next year. Clinton this season was the smallest school in AAA, but with 2016 re-alignment CHS will be a "middle of the pack" sized AAA school. Clinton is being re-aligned into an "I-26 conference" and, O'Shields said, none of the other conference schools offers or are interested in offering girls lacrosse. All but one conference school offers girls soccer, O'Shields said. With girls soccer, Clinton High can compete for a region championship right away, he said - the CHS soccer program conducted an interest meeting Thursday night, also at the high school.
Offering soccer would give some CHS students not currently competing an outlet for their athletic interest, O'Shields said. "Engaged students do better," he said.
A lacrosse player said, however, there is no interest among the student body for girls soccer. Girls can play on the boys soccer team, and have done so in the past, O'Shields said. "We won a soccer game (once) when a girl scored a goal," he said.
CHS lacrosse had a 4-6 record last season, and began the 2016 season Tuesday night with a home scrimmage against Dutch Fork. They didn't run the scoreboard, but a report said the score would have showed Clinton losing by one goal. That's a far cry from CHS lacrosse's early days when the fledgling team was winning just one game a season and was on the losing end of lopsided scores to much more experienced opposition. Despite being a young program, Clinton High lacrosse has sent players on to compete at the college level. Lacrosse players said Clinton Middle 8th graders were in the stands for Tuesday's scrimmage - there are 26 players on the CHS lacrosse team. A player said CHS girls soccer would have to "start from scratch" while the lacrosse team already is established.
Vaughn said if the districts, instead of regions, plan is implemented, Clinton would be in a Greenville-based district, and would be competitive for the district championship which would lead to an Upper State title game and, ultimately, a long-shot but a State Championship game. New lacrosse teams are being added, O'Shields was told - Greenwood High plans to start the sport. Clinton Elementary School received a grant and bought lacrosse equipment to teach the sport, a parent said - "What happens to all that?"
Vaughn said the Greenville teams don't want Clinton to drop lacrosse, and have offered their assistance in keeping the program going and scheduling games. Presbyterian College has women's lacrosse, it dropped men's lacrosse in 2005-06.
"All I want to do at this point is have a year (one spring lacrosse season)," O'Shields said. "We can all walk out of here with a positive" - a 2016 lacrosse season and a 2017 season at the least.