In a rare weather break Thursday, the Sutter Union High soccer programs hosted Marysville in the inaugural Pioneer Valley League finale between the schools on the spacious green grass behind Sutter’s campus.
Sutter is one of the new faces, along with Wheatland Union High School, to the PVL of the Sac-Joaquin Section this year.
Like any newbie, there can be challenges when beginning something different.
“It’s a tougher league (with) better competition but it’s good for our players,” Sutter girls coach Jeffrey Stanhope said. “We are familiar with most of the teams – the ones that are new to us are Colfax, Bear River, and Twelve Bridges. It’s definitely better competition and a lot different rules for this league than the Northern Section.”
Perhaps the biggest change, Stanhope said, is the expanded dead period ranging from Oct. 9-30 where high school coaches in the Sac-Joaquin Section cannot have any contact with players except for conditioning.
Stanhope went on to say that the offseason rules are explicitly different from the NSCIF.
“It’s a little getting used to,” he said.
Stanhope’s bunch, the reigning Northern California Division V runner-up, has weathered the early setbacks to place third in the league right now. Following Thursday’s 3-0 shutout of Marysville, in which sophomore Lily Miller scored twice in the second half to preserve the win, Sutter (11-3, 6-2 PVL) sits four games up on fourth place Center and a game back of second place Twelve Bridges. Everyone is chasing undefeated Colfax, which Sutter faces Tuesday at home beginning at 3 p.m., weather permitting.
The weather, while challenging during practice, has yet to cancel any games this year, Stanhope said.
Two of the Huskies’ games were relocated to neutral sites with artificial turf, but the game schedule has remained intact to date.
“The league (and) (Athletic Directors) have done a great job trying to navigate all the weather,” Stanhope said.
Sutter’s home schedule has stayed the course, due in part to the school’s grounds crew limiting the standing water puddles and mud pools on the playing surface.
“It’s unsafe conditions,” Stanhope said, “and the referee would make that call. Also the ADs are doing a great job of getting out here and checking the field.”
Marysville boys coach Salvador Tinoco was pleasantly surprised with Sutter’s game surface upon entering the school on Thursday.
Tinoco’s team, which lost 2-1 to Sutter, said the outcome did not have anything to do with the field.
Tinoco said the new-look PVL has been refreshing because teams like Sutter and Marysville field varsity-only squads.
“Sutter, Marysville, and a couple other schools in the area only make a varsity team, which is a good thing because you can bring all your better players to the varsity and challenge any school,” Tinoco said.
Marysville (2-6-2, 1-4-2) has yet to face the other new PVL team after its game with first-place Wheatland was canceled due to unsafe conditions caused by the weather.
Overall, Tinoco likes the league structure and relishes his squad having competitive battles with Sutter, Wheatland and others moving forward.
“It will be challenging,” Tinoco said. “Sutter was able to handle their own today so we welcome them as they come in.”
Marysville opens against Wheatland at 6:15 p.m. Jan. 23 in Marysville.
Marysville begins next week at Lindhurst at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday.
Sutter (4-7-1, 2-5-1) hosts Colfax at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday.