BENNINGTON >> The Southern Vermont College athletic department announced on Wednesday that the men's volleyball team would suspend its season after it was determined that the program wouldn't have enough players to fulfill a full season's schedule.
"This was not an easy decision, given the recent success of the program," said SVC athletic director Michael McDonough. "We are excited about the prospects of [head coach] Scott's [Fitzgerald] recruiting, which are expected to continue that proud tradition."
They are in line to continue the program in 2017.
"We graduated significant numbers from last year and we knew it would be depleted," McDonough said. "We weren't able to augment returners with new players."
The Mountaineers graduated seven of 10 players on the roster last season.
"The reality of this started at the end of the women's schedule in the fall, when the focus fully turned to the men's team, but in fact, this was on the radar screen since Scott was hired," McDonough said.
Fitzgerald took over both the women's and men's programs in 2015 after two years on the Mountaineers' volleyball squad. Last season, the Queensbury, N.Y. native led SVC to an 16-11 record and a New England Collegiate Conference playoff appearance, its fifth in a row.
"We felt it was the prudent thing to step away," McDonough said. "We weren't left with a realistic option and we couldn't guarantee at least six players on the floor."
According to the NCAA, a team has to play at least 17 matches for a full season.
The Mountaineers had canceled a handful of non-conference matchups as the possibility of losing the season became more real. Coming up into conference play, that became the point of no return to make the final decision.
"We didn't want to play any conference matches because that would complicate things if we started and stopped," McDonough said.
McDonough said that the school will remain in compliance with the NCAA, because the minimum number of sports they have to sponsor is 10 and taking away men's volleyball leaves 12 total.
Players who were set to play will retain the year of eligibility, because there's no competitions or practice.
"Fortunately the NCAA allows for that to have four years of eligibility," McDonough said.
Recruitment efforts have been ongoing, and McDonough said everyone in the athletics department is looking forward to next season.
"Scott's been working hard and now he can keep doing that. Any change in a coaching staff results in a period of transition, but we're happy to have Scott and he's been on this team, so he has a lot of pride in it," McDonough said.