Photo by Jeff Barrett

Things will look very different this fall for the USU Eastern men’s and women’s soccer team.

On July 14 the NJCAA announced its plan of action for the upcoming 2020-21 academic year, forcing the majority of competition to be played during the spring semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For USU Eastern this means volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer will have to adjust their traditional schedules.

“You always try to look for the good things when it comes to the changes,” said coach Jared Woodhouse. “Having the fall to take things a little slower after not having a spring I think will help. When our season does start in the spring, the kids will have had a little more time to transition from the high school level.”

Soccer teams are now permitted 60 consecutive calendar days for practice and scrimmages beginning Aug. 15. This means prep work for the upcoming season can continue until Nov. 15. During that time frame a maximum of four scrimmage dates can be scheduled against outside competition.

Once the 60 calendar day schedule expires teams will not be able to prep for the spring season until March 15. Competition will then officially begin on April 3, running until May 15. All region competition has to be completed on May 24, setting up championship play at the beginning of June.

The drastic changes in the season’s schedule has forced coach Woodhouse to alter the traditional off-season spring schedule, which will directly affect the way the team prepares in the fall.

“This fall I would like to mirror what we do in the spring, which is play D-2 schools,” said Woodhouse. “The problem is unlike the NJCAA, the NCAA hasn’t changed. They are still going to play in the fall, which limits their ability to play games against us.”

Like most junior college programs, Woodhouse has had difficulties fielding a schedule for the fall season that aligns with the NJCAA’s latest plan of action.

At the moment it appears that the first conference game this spring will take place between April 8 and 10. The condensed season means each team may have to play back-to-back games just to fulfill the requirements to be eligible for the national tournament.

While the focus is on the upcoming schedule and fall practices, the long term affects of the schedule adjustment could affect recruiting for the next couple of years. Coaches typically focus on bringing in and watching new talent during the spring months, which will now be occupied by conference and tournament play.

“I believe it is going to setback recruiting. For us, maybe two or three years,” said Woodhouse. “The issue is I’m going to have to rely on film for recruiting for next fall, which I don’t like to do. I’m going to have players coming in that I haven’t seen play live. If we are playing in the spring I’m going to miss out on the time that I typically spend recruiting for the next season.”

The logistics of the men’s or women’s schedule has yet to be finalized. Woodhouse hopes to have that completed in the coming weeks.

Listen to coach Woodhouse’s complete interview from KOAL’s Drive Time Sports below:

**Stock photo by Jeff Barrett, provided courtesy of USU Eastern.