For the Southern Virginia University women's soccer team, the choice of whether or not to compete on Sunday is clear — even when the outcome is not.
SVU, a liberal arts college in Buena Vista, Va., that embraces Mormon values, has always chosen not to play on Sunday. This year, as the women's soccer team prepares to play at a United States Collegiate Athletic Association-sponsored tournament at Vermont Technical College, the school has a difficult decision.
According to school officials, SVU has been notified by the USCAA that if it chooses to forfeit a Sunday game at the tournament, the entire athletic department could face sanctions. Such sanctions may impact SVU's ability to compete in future tournaments and receive postseason recognition.
For Deidra Dryden, SVU's athletic director, the issue of forfeiting Sunday games is not new, but the possibility of sanctions has come as a surprise.
"Last fall we went to the women's soccer tournament with the understanding that we would not play on Sunday, but there was no mention of sanctions," Dryden said. "Last spring our women's softball team went to the national tournament and was asked to play on Sunday but declined. There were no sanctions.
"I would understand this better if immediately following that tournament they had sent us a letter that said if we did not play on Sunday again that we would be sanctioned."
Calls to the USCAA seeking comment were not returned.
Dryden and others at SVU still want the team to compete in the tournament, scheduled for Nov. 5-7.
"We want to just play and let the girls have the rewards for putting in the hard work all season long and for playing the way they have all season long," said Matt Grawrock, head coach of the women's soccer team. "We aren't coming into this thinking that it is an issue. We are thinking this is a chance to play, and in the end that's what we want."
With the tournament fast approaching, the players are doing their best to focus on the things they still have control over.
"What we can control is going to this tournament and playing our best," said Michelle Riddle, a student-athlete from Midvale, Utah. "If we have to play on Sunday then at least we can say we made it there."
Teammate Tamara Nagle says the team will play hard regardless of the looming Sunday championship game.
"They can try to keep us out of the finals by having it on a Sunday, but we are still going to fight to get there," Nagle said.
The players hope that, eventually, no one will be forced to make that choice.
"If they continue to have the championship game on Sunday, and we keep standing up for what we feel is right then hopefully down the road future women's soccer teams won't have to deal with these same issues," Nagle said.