PORT ANGELES — Diamonds aren’t forever at Peninsula College.
The Pirates softball team will play its final season, at least for the foreseeable future, this spring, college officials announced Tuesday.
A women’s soccer team will take its place in the 2010-11 academic year, coinciding with the expected unveiling of the college’s new artificial turf field on campus.
The college will hire a coach and begin recruiting women soccer players right away in an effort to field a competitive team this fall, said Director of Athletics Rick Ross.
“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.”
Softball players were informed of the decision before practice on Tuesday, sophomore Colleen Murphy-Carey said.
“There was some pretty quiet and upset girls,” said Murphy-Carey, whose mother, Kathy Murphy-Carey, is an associate dean and one of four college administrators involved in the decision. “[Ross] came out and told us, and the girls were just kind of in shock.
“There was definitely optimism that maybe community voices would have reversed the decision . . . and it just didn’t happen. Whatever we were hoping for didn’t happen.”
Ross, Associate Dean Murphy-Carey and college Vice President Jack Huls gathered information concerning the possible switch and made a recommendation to President Tom Keegan last month.
Keegan then made the final decision to replace the softball program, created 10 years ago along with men’s soccer, with women’s soccer.
“I’m disappointed,” said Colleen Murphy-Carey, a Port Angeles High School alumna. “I think it’s a shame to see it go in this community.
“There’s girls on the team that I’ve played with since I was 6. It’s a nice ending for me [since Murphy-Carey graduates this spring], but there’s other girls in the community who aren’t going to get that same experience. That just kind of sucks for them.”
That includes players like freshman Chelsea Ramblin, also of Port Angeles.
“Everybody on the team feels the same way,” Ramblin said. “They know the town and they know that soccer isn’t a major part of Port Angeles.”
The women’s soccer team will play doubleheaders with the men’s team in the fall.
Peninsula will enter the 2010-11 academic year with women’s and men’s soccer teams fall quarter and women’s and men’s basketball teams in fall and winter quarters.
“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.”
The decision was framed by three primary factors, Ross said: “Our ability to efficiently administer and financially support our Student Programs and Athletics Department, our ability to meet our enrollment and roster targets in the athletic program, and our ability to be competitive on a consistent basis.
“The college has enjoyed great success with its men’s soccer program, and we hope to mirror that success with women’s soccer,” he said.
The men’s team has had five straight playoff appearances that include two division championships and two final-four appearances.
Meanwhile, the softball team has struggled to match that success, reaching the postseason only twice the past nine seasons.
During the last two years, the Pirates posted a cumulative record of 12-64.
Yet unlike its athletic counterparts at the college, softball has consistently fielded a majority of North Olympic Peninsula athletes.
Ten of 12 players on last year’s roster were from the area, while this year 11-of-15 suiting up for head coach Jim Cheney hail from the Peninsula.
“Personally, I’m going to miss eating sunflower seeds and watching spring softball games,” Ross said. “And I know I’m not alone in that sentiment.
“Further, 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.“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.”