Artificial turf provides early spring advantage March 20 2015
There were large piles of snow striping segments of the East China Stadium parking lot Wednesday night.
The bathrooms weren’t yet working, and for the playing of the national anthem, fans, players and coaches turned their attention toward an empty flag pole, as Old Glory was not yet flying over the grounds.
But there was a field to play a soccer match on, which can be quite the luxury in mid-March.
“We always (have more early games),” Marine City girls soccer coach Dave Frendt said after his team’s 3-0 win against Algonac on Wednesday, the first game of the season in the Blue Water Area. “We always seem to have a lot of games early, and we try to schedule them home. I don’t think we’ve played at Algonac in a decade. We always schedule them early because they’re not in our league.
“It definitely helps to have the turf, but now you see more and more schools going to it. If there’s ever a (new) building, they might as well do it. We like it, and if we were able to practice out here, it’s even better.”
The Mariners are scheduled to play four home games before spring break, the most of any team in the Blue Water Area. Their fifth pre-spring break game will be played at Lake Shore, another school with an artificial surface.
St. Clair, which shares East China Stadium, has three home games scheduled before break, as does Marysville, the only other area school with an artificial surface. The Vikings’ other game will be played at L’Anse Creuse, which also has an artificial surface.
“Usually soccer doesn’t come into play as far as cancellations,” Marysville Athletic Director Tom Valko said, adding that he doesn’t worry about scheduling early-season home soccer matches thanks to the turf. “These last two winters are the worst we’ve had, but we’ve been on it.”
This spring appears to already be off to a better start than the last two, as much of the snow that fell on the area during the winter has melted. A year ago, soccer games in April were being canceled when fields were still thawing.
Marysville has the luxury of using its game field for practice since it has Walt Braun Viking Stadium all to itself.
“We’re two weeks ahead,” Valko said. “It had a foot of snow on it last Wednesday, and it was cleared Sunday, so they practiced on it Monday and Tuesday. (Going to turf) is a no-brainer anymore, especially with our band. Our field gets used every day in the fall, twice a day, where you couldn’t do that on a grass field.”
The Mariners and Saints, meanwhile, have to share, meaning natural-grass practice fields. While not all grass fields are created equal, as of Wednesday, the Mariners had yet to be on their practice field this season. They had just two practices outdoors before the game against Algonac, which is still better than several teams can say.
“Normally it’s a better advantage than this year, but this year because it was so cold, it was frozen on top of the snow so it wasn’t melting as good as it usually does,” Frendt said. “Usually it melts way before the grass. Our practice field was actually melting before this was, and I was getting frustrated.
“Normally it is a nice advantage. Everyone in the state’s going to be in the same boat for awhile, but if you have turf, great.”