Turf Fields Give Alaska Soccer Season an Early Start

For most, the warm spring sun has already melted away the winter snow and has allowed clubs to start practicing on their outdoor fields. However…when you’re the West Valley Wolfpack and reside in Alaska, spring training is slightly more complicated!

The new Turf fields at the Fairbanks Youth Soccer Association has allowed the club to start outdoor practice in early April rather than late may which was the norm in past years.

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Turf fields give Interior Alaska soccer season early start


FAIRBANKS — In previous seasons, high school soccer teams in Fairbanks haven’t been able to practice outside until late April or even May.

That’s changed this season with the addition of two turf fields at the Fairbanks Youth Soccer Association Fields. The West Valley Wolfpack boys got their first experience on the fields on Saturday, despite a fresh layer of snow on the ground.

“Not in my four years have we ever practiced this early. We’ve usually been in the gym until late April, even later sometimes. This is totally new. I’m pretty happy,” Wolfpack senior Olav Tchegeownta said after practice.

“It’s pretty amazing to have turf up here and to have a nice surface to play on the whole season,” Tchegeownta added.

Wolfpack head coach Howard Maxwell said if his team is out of the gym in early April, it’s normally just to run on trails.

“My sophomore year, I think we were out in May and there was still snow on the ground,” senior Brayden Deweese said. “It’s exciting to get out early.”

The first high school games on the turf fields are scheduled for Friday. West Valley, the defending Mid Alaska Conference champions, takes on Eielson and the reigning MAC girls champion Lathrop faces Eielson at 5:30 p.m. The West Valley girls face Wasilla and the Lathrop boys take on Eielson at 7:15 p.m.

The Malemutes girls host Wasilla at noon on Saturday on the turf fields, which are 120 yards long by 70 yards wide.

“The nice thing about this surface is it’s actually full size whereas some turf fields in Anchorage are football field size, which is nice,” Tchegeownta said.

The fields, which have goalposts setup at both ends, can also be used for football. The fields can be lined with markings for football when the season begins.

“It’s a lot better than the pitch we have over at West Valley or almost any other field in Fairbanks,” Deweese said. “We’re pretty excited to get going on the turf.”

With teams no longer having to worry field conditions during games, it should make for better soccer according to Maxwell.

“The ball is going to roll real nice,” Maxwell said. “It’s going to be a much nicer game to watch, so we’re hoping the community comes out to watch high school games here and the competitive community is going to use it in the summer.

“This is going to be nice and smooth and consistent,” Maxwell added. “We’re hoping this will make a big difference for safety and also for the quality of play.”

Along with getting out of the gym early, the turf fields also allows teams to work on things they can’t do in the gym.

“Right now we’re confined to gyms. We’re dealing with a different kind of surface and we can’t do a lot of the bigger tactical things that we would like to do because we’re trapped in a gym,” Maxwell said.

Construction of the fields, which cost $3.7 million, began last May and was completed later in the summer. With the completion of the fields, Fairbanks joined Anchorage, Wasilla, Palmer, Kenai, Juneau and Barrow as communities to have turf fields in Alaska.

“For us, this is ideal. Every single high school game is going to be here, and sometimes two games going on at the same time,” Maxwell said. “It’s better for the referees, it’s better for the fans, its better for the schools.”

Tchegeownta and Maxwell both mentioned how the turf can help the Fairbanks teams even the playing field against the Anchorage teams. Since 2004, only one Interior team has played in the state tournament championship game. That was the Wolfpack girls, who fell to South Anchorage in the 2012 title game.

“If we get out every year before April 15, we’re going to be more equal to the Anchorage teams who have been working on turf already for a couple weeks,” Maxwell said.

The high school soccer regular season runs through May 23. The state tournament is scheduled for Mat 28-30 in Anchorage.

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