While the men’s and women’s varsity soccer teams garner much attention in the fall, especially since the women won the Div. III National Championships last year, not many people seem to know that both varsity programs have junior varsity (JV) teams. JV teams, unlike club sports, officially fall under the umbrella of their corresponding varsity programs and receive resources like transportation, food, gas for away games, uniforms and locker rooms from the Athletic Department.
According to Men’s Soccer Head Coach Erin Sullivan ’96, the College used to field many more JV and even first-year-specific teams. Now, however, Williams has JV teams only for men’s and women’s soccer, football, men’s and women’s basketball and women’s lacrosse, according to the Athletic Department website.
“You used to come in to Williams and automatically know that you would be playing on a freshman or JV team for your first year,” Sullivan said. “That is what I did when I first came here, and I was certainly a starting varsity player later on in my career.”
Sullivan has continued this tradition for men’s soccer by sending a handful of younger varsity players each year to compete in JV games for what they call the “reserve team.” Additionally, men’s soccer Assistant Coach Tommy Crabill serves as the primary JV coach, allowing for fluidity and unity among varsity and JV, according to Sullivan.
“We had a talk with the team about the reserve team and I asked everyone to raise their hands if they had ever played in a JV,” Coach Crabill said. “Only three or four guys didn’t raise their hands. So there’s buy-in for this type of model from the coaching side, but there’s also buy-in from the varsity players.”
This year, the men’s JV soccer has seven games on its schedule, competing against the likes of Union and RPI. The men play in a league with other JV squads as well as varsity-subset teams. This year, the team hopes to have a roster of about 12 to 15 players.
“The mission of this type of approach is to provide a pathway of playing soccer for those students who do not arrive through the typical recruiting path,” Crabill said. “The idea is to basically have two lineups within one program. There are many athletes who have dreams of playing on Cole Field, and, over the years, I’ve seen guys rise through the ranks in a longer developmental path and achieve impressive accolades.”
Women’s soccer also has a JV program, although it less frequently interacts with varsity coaches. Women’s hockey Head Coach Meghan Gillis serves as the women’s soccer JV coach and has done so for five years. Last season, the women played four games: two against Middlebury and two against local high school teams. This season, the women will play three: two against Middlebury and one against a high school team. Coach Gillis said that it has been a challenge to schedule games.
“The students on the JV team want to play in home games, but [fewer] want to play in away games, so it can be hard to get 12 students traveling for games,” Gillis said. “I want to respond to the needs and wants of the team.”
Some players are frustrated with the small number of games, the relatively short season and the difficulty in recruiting enough players to field travel teams, a fact exacerbated by the team’s inability to table at the Purple Key Fair since it’s not a student organization.
“Part of the issue is that we don’t get players from varsity playing on our team,” Emily McDonald ’19, a JV player, said. “But part of the issue is also this feeling that there’s not a lot we can do about not having enough players or games.”
Although major differences exist between the men’s and women’s JV programs, both provide an opportunity for students who love the game to pursue soccer at the collegiate level.