BY AARON GRAY (DAILY NEWS STAFF)
Construction of a new soccer facility at the University of Virgin Islands’ St. Croix campus has been delayed, but the new UVI men’s soccer program is moving forward as planned. The team is scheduled to play its inaugural match Sept. 24 against Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico at 2 p.m. at Paul E. Joseph Stadium in Frederiksted. Admission is free.
It’s one of three home matches this season for the UVI soccer team, which was added to the school’s athletics program in March. Construction of a proposed three-field facility was supposed to start in May.
«Right now, it looks like the project will be contracted by the end of the month,» UVI athletic director Peter Sauer said Thursday. «We thought the fields would be ready by now, but we’re still getting ready to play some soccer.»
Preliminary plans called for one FIFA-certified soccer pitch, which would be the site for home games, and two smaller practice fields that would be 220 feet by 325 feet in dimension.
In March, school officials said the project would cost approximately $300,000 and would be paid for with the $600,000 in federal stimulus funding awarded to UVI through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, a federal spending bill passed by Congress to stimulate the economy during the country’s recession.
After a recent audit of the proposed construction site behind the tennis and basketball courts on the south side of campus, the plans were trimmed down to one game field and one practice field, Sauer said Thursday.
«The fields should be ready for next season,» Sauer said. «I’m just glad the program is moving forward, and we’ve already received a lot of interest from local players to join.»
Country Day School soccer coach Yohannes Worede was tapped to head up the school’s soccer program and he said there are 18 players from St. Croix and St. Thomas on the preliminary roster. The players have been regularly working out together on their respective islands as Worede has been impressed with their early progress.
«We have a fair split between players from both islands, and I was very happy with the initial interest from UVI students,» said Worede, who visited St. Thomas on Thursday to evaluate players. «Our main challenge now is to form some team chemistry. Not having a home field is just a minor hiccup.»
Paul E. Joseph Stadium has been around since the 1960’s and was built as a baseball stadium. The spectator seating area behind home plate needs major repairs and has been condemned. But temporary bleacher seats exist and even more bleachers were brought in for the CONCACAF qualifying match Sept. 6 between the USVI senior men’s soccer team and Antigua.
While UVI is scheduled to host three opponents – not including the playoffs – the team will also make four visits to Puerto Rico for regular season league games. Two consecutive away matches will be played at the practice facility for the Puerto Rico Islanders, which is a semi-professional club based in Bayamón that plays in the North American Soccer League, which is one tier below Major League Soccer.
«They have a state-of-the-art facility over there in Bayamón,» Sauer said. «That will be a great experience for our guys to go over there and play where the pros train everyday.»
UVI is a part of the Liga Atlética Interuniversitaria, which will include 14 college soccer teams from Puerto Rico.
It’s the same league the UVI men’s and women’s basketball teams compete in, along with the school’s volleyball, tennis, cross country, swimming, track and field and table tennis squads. UVI is also the only school in the league that does not offer athletic scholarships.
In soccer, there are two divisions – UVI will compete in the eight-team San Juan Division – as the top four teams from each will advance to the playoffs.
«Going in, I’m not sure what kind of expectations people are going to have for this team,» said Worede, who has led Country Day to three straight St. Croix IAA titles.
«But I’m in it to win it. We want to have an early impact in this league so I’d like to see our team in the playoffs this year. My real aspiration is to take the whole thing.»
– Contact sports writer Aaron Gray at 774-8772 ext. 352 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
2011 UVI men’s soccer team schedule
All matches start at 2 p.m.
Date Opponent Venue
Sept. 24 vs. Politechnica Paul E. Joseph Stadium
Oct. 1 at UPR-Carolina Don Bosco Stadium (PR)
Oct. 8 vs. Metropolitan Paul E. Joseph Stadium
Oct. 15 vs. UPR-Rio Piedras Paul E. Joseph Stadium
Oct. 21 at Sacred Heart Balboa Stadium (PR)
Oct. 22 at UPR-Bayamón Bayamón FC (PR)
Nov. 5 at Caribbean Univ. Bayamón FC (PR)
Nov. 8 LAI playoffs TBD
Dec. 2 LAI championship TBD
– Source: UVI athletic director Peter Sauer
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