There is no joy in Mudville ... or in Port Angeles. Not if you're a softball player.
Peninsula College athletic program officials confirmed last week they will drop softball from its athletic programs following the 2010 spring season and replace it with women's soccer, set to kick off in the fall of this year.
The college plans to hire a coach and begin recruiting women soccer players right away in an effort to field a competitive team, said Rick Ross, college director of athletics.
"We've been talking about women's soccer for some time and perhaps in different circumstances we could have added that sport and ramped up resources for women's softball at the same time," Ross said. "Unfortunately, we are in a tough budget climate and we feel we're better positioned to start and successfully maintain a women's soccer program at this time."
The news shocked and saddened several Pirate softball players who were in midst of preseason practices when the new broke in early March.
"It's disappointing, especially for the girls who came from Alaska to play," said Carly Swingle, the Pirates' starting pitcher and 2008 graduate of Sequim High.
P.C.'s softball roster features nine freshmen; three (Heather Carlson, Emily Garner and Cimone Trout) are from Alaska, five from Port Angeles and one is from Port Townsend.
Those freshmen now have a decision to make: remain at Peninsula College without softball or transfer to another school that offers the sport.
"It's disappointing," said Pirate shortstop Molly Fletcher, a 2006 Sequim High grad. "I'm sure there's lots of local kids (who were) looking forward to playing."
P.C. keeps four sports
Peninsula continues to offer four sports, only now the 2010-2011 academic year features women's and men's soccer teams during fall quarter, women's and men's basketball teams for the majority of the winter quarter and no sports in the spring.
"Ultimately, we hope this shift will improve our participation and provide more access to higher education for women athletes," Ross said. "There's never a good time to make a change, but the state budget crisis has us all looking for efficiency in everything we do. This move simply makes sense on a number of levels."
Ross said the decision was made with three major factors in mind: the ability of the department to fund sports, the ability to meet enrollment and roster numbers, and the ability to be competitive each season.
The Pirate softball program has struggled in the past two seasons, going 7-36 in 2008 and 5-28 in 2009. But P.C. is just three years removed from an NWAAC tournament-qualifying Pirate squad that went 22-14 and won a game at the tourney.
"We have an excellent coaching staff and a great group of young women on this year's roster, which makes this an even more difficult decision," Ross said.
"Ultimately, we have to do what we believe is best for the future of the college - and we believe women's soccer is the best long-term option for us."
Reach Michael Dashiell at email@example.com.