SUNY Canton Teams Eye Conference Play In Fall
Waterville, ME – Kieran NAC presidents and athletic administrators recently affirmed plans to return to regular conference schedules and championships during the 2021-22 academic year. Just before the COVID-19 pandemic started, three institutions joined the NAC, bringing full membership to twelve. Conference staff and campus administrators spent close to a year planning schedules and championship formats for a growing conference with 12 public and private schools spread over several states. Everyone is excited and hopeful to experience the New NAC as it was designed to be. "Students, coaches, and administrators are all looking forward to this fall and a return to a full conference schedule," said Athletic Directors' Council Chair, Randy Sieminski. "We are optimistic that student athletes and coaches can compete in the sports they love with all twelve NAC colleges and universities vying for championships and honors." Cazenovia, SUNY Cobleskill, and SUNY Poly are the most recent additions to a rapidly growing conference. Fifty percent of the current membership became affiliated in the past few years. SUNY Delhi began full membership in the NAC with 12 sports in the fall of 2019, and brought that total to 15 this year with softball and men's and women's basketball. SUNY Canton and the University of Maine at Presque Isle entered the conference at the start of the 2018-19 academic year. Maine Maritime Academy is a founding member of the conference, dating back to the 1996-97 academic year. Northern Vermont-Johnson became a full member in 2002, followed by Thomas College, Husson University, and the University of Maine at Farmington in 2003. Northern Vermont University-Lyndon joined the NAC in 2008. "Over the past year or so, we have learned to be optimistic, yet cautious and prepared for anything," reflected Chair of the Presidents' Council, Ray Rice. "We anticipate that student athletes will enjoy a normal sport season this fall as we will continue to follow all local, state, federal, and institutional health and safety guidelines." Each NAC sport schedule and championship format are designed to suit the needs of member institutions and provide exceptional competitive experiences for student athletes. Fall NAC sports include men's golf, men's & women's cross country, women's tennis, women's volleyball, and men's & women's soccer. Men's golf held divisional tournaments this spring, but will return to a full-conference, 36-hole championship tournament at The Orchards on October 9-10, 2021. Women's tennis played a spring 2021 season as well, but will return to a regular dual match season with a four-team championship tournament, also in early October. Some members of men's and women's cross country teams competed in limited track & field meets this spring. All 11 sponsoring schools will return to the course this fall to race for the championship at Thomas College on October 30, 2021. Ten women's volleyball programs will compete in East and West divisions during the regular season. Each division will have a four-team tournament to determine which teams represent the East and West in the NAC Championship on November 6, 2021. Men's and women's soccer are sponsored by all 12 NAC schools. The regular season soccer schedule features conference games mostly in-division, with four east-west crossover games. Quarterfinals and semifinals will take place in-division, like volleyball. The championship game will pit east against west. Winter sports also begin in the fall semester, and include men's and women's basketball and swimming & diving. The basketball season is set up similar to soccer, with divisional schedules and four crossover games. The postseason will begin in-division and culminate in an east-west championship game. The NAC added swimming & diving to the slate of conference sponsored sports in 2020-21. Teams held a virtual invitational during the pandemic, and will finally be on deck together for the NAC championship at Husson University in February, 2022. "Athletic administrators, presidents, vice presidents, coaches, staff, and student athletes have shown incredible tenacity through this once-in-a-lifetime situation. Student athletes were diligent with health and safety protocols, and enthusiastic to play even with unusual guardrails around practice and competition," said Commissioner Marcella Zalot. "Campus leaders and administrators worked tirelessly all year to provide an optimal experience for student athletes in less-than optimal times. Returning to normal contests will be an incredible reward for everyone." All plans remain contingent on the continued decline of the virus, and ensuring the health and safety of participants at all levels.