JOHNSTOWN — After recent seasons have been a scramble for the Fulton-Montgomery Community College athletic program, hopes are high for a return to a sense of normalcy this fall.
“Everything is going to go. We’re just trying to make it work,” FMCC athletic director Kevin Jones said. “I’m cautiously optimistic that we can run through another year with no major problems. Last year was tough for sure, but we made it through it.”
Despite the challenges of fielding teams during the COVID pandemic, the Raiders sent their men’s soccer and women’s volleyball teams to regional play last fall. FMCC plans to field a full compliment of fall teams this year, including women’s soccer, men’s cross country and women’s cross country. David Clayton will coach both the men’s and women’s soccer teams for a second straight season, while Jim Bowles is the cross country coach.
“We had five or six teams go to regionals last year, even with all of the chaos going on,” Jones said. “We’ll handle whatever we have to handle.”
The FMCC volleyball team reached the regional finals before losing to Finger Lakes Community College, 3-1. The Raiders posted a 15-2 overall record last season.
“We had a fantastic season last year,” FMCC volleyball coach Tina Olyer said. “I think we’ve got a good group this year, and I think we can do well again.”
The Raiders return eight players from last year’s squad and are ranked ninth in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division III preseason poll.
“I am optimistic about the season. I think we have a strong team this year,” Olyer said.
Sadie Blowers, Madelyn Avery, Aireanna Muhlberger, Hailee Thompson, Krystal McSpirit, Hannah Hoffman, Mercedes Lugo and Alana Biasini all return for FMCC. Sophomore transfer Deandra Myers and freshman newcomers Alivia Wilson and Arryana King round out the Lady Raiders’ roster.
“We’re extremely fortunate to have a team that includes 11 players. We normally don’t have a group that large,” Olyer said. “Most of the girls have played with or against each other most of their lives. They all know each other and we don’t have a lot of bonding to do because it’s a pretty tight-knit group.”
FMCC lost Macey Salvione from last year’s team after she transferred to the University at Albany.
Salvione was the Mountain Valley Conference player of the year and named first-team All-Region. She finished the season with 133 digs, 119 kills, 0.92 aces per set and 3.05 kills per set.
“We are extremely excited that Macey has the opportunity to transfer to UAlbany to play at the Division 1 level with the Great Danes, after competing one season for the Lady Raiders,” Olyer said. “We all wish her continued success on the volleyball court and in the classroom. We will miss her competitiveness and leadership qualities. We know that she will bring those same attributes to the UAlbany volleyball program.”
Taylor Denmark, Katie LaGrange graduated from last year’s team, while Gabby Elwood and Morgan Mraz did not return.
Coming off a successful season last fall, Olyer said her team was excited to get back on the court.
“We’ve been practicing for a couple of weeks,” she said. “This group wanted to get going the first chance they could. They were eager to get into the gym.”
Olyer will be joined on the bench by Mike Calvello, who will serve as assistant coach.
“I’m very fortunate to have an assistant who has so much knowledge of the sport,” Olyer said.
FMCC is slated to kick off its season with a pair of scrimmages at Utica University and Jefferson Community College.
“I think those will help us get ready for the season for sure,” Olyer said.
Like the women’s volleyball team, the men’s soccer team also advanced to regional play.
“We made the playoffs after not having a team for a season,” FMCC men’s soccer coach David Clayton said.
The Raiders finished 8-7 overall, losing to Genesee Community College in the regional semifinals, 4-1.
“The team looks good so far, hopefully, we’ll be better than last year,” Clayton said. “We have a nice, diverse team. They’re eager and ready to get to work.”
FMCC hosted its first practice of the season on Monday.
With more of a normal opportunity to recruit this offseason, Clayton has brought in players from around the world. Germany, Scotland, Congo, Canary Islands, Brazil and England are among the countries represented on this year’s FMCC roster, which should feature around 28 players.
“We’ve got guys from all over the world on this year’s team, and they’re still trickling in,” Clayton said. “We’ve had a full year to recruit and we’re hoping that will be beneficial for the program. We’ve got a good group of guys and we’ll see what happens.”
FMCC is scheduled to host SUNY Adirondack on Sept. 7 at 4 p.m. in its opener.
In addition to coaching the FMCC men’s soccer team, Clayton also will coach the women’s team.
“It’s busy for sure,” said Clayton, who does not have any assistant coaches.
The Lady Raiders went 4-9 last season after not fielding a team since 2014.
“We’re just trying to focus on building off of last season, and we’re looking to improve,” Clayton said.
Participation has been an issue at several schools in Region 3.
“It’s been a struggle for women’s soccer teams throughout our region,” Jones said. “I know that Columbia-Greene and Clinton won’t be fielding teams this fall, and there are some others that might not as well. COVID has had a big impact on participation levels at all of the different levels from high school to college.”
Clayton said that he is expecting to have a 15-player roster for the women’s squad this fall, featuring a number of area players.
“It’s a solid group, he said.
FMCC, which opened practice Tuesday, is scheduled to host SUNY Adirondack on Sept. 7 at 2 p.m. in its opener.