Eligibility issue cuts season short for NR girls soccer

Published 6:26 pm Friday, June 3, 2022

When Nansemond River’s 2022 girls soccer season is remembered for what it accomplished on the field, it will show that the team finished with 12 wins, one loss and three ties.

In any other season, that would have almost certainly meant reaching the Region 5B tournament and given the talent on the team, a possible, if not certain, berth into the Class 5 state tournament also.

However, it was an off-the-field issue that derailed the team’s season after the school determined that one of its players — Malia Kincaid — was ineligible. As a result, it was forced to forfeit at least two of its games, according to records kept by the Southeastern District’s website — an April 26 game at Indian River that the Warriors had won 5-1, with Kincaid scoring twice, and an April 28 scoreless tie at Grassfield. Another game Nansemond River had won, an April 19, 1-0 shutout at Hickory, is now listed as a 1-0 loss.

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The eligibility issue was raised following the Warriors’ 6-2 win May 2 over Deep Creek, a game in which Kincaid scored three goals.

Initially, it was thought that someone affiliated with the Deep Creek program had reported an issue with Kincaid’s eligibility. However, her mother, Karen Kincaid, said in an interview she believes someone associated with the Nansemond River girls soccer program reported the issue, citing a since-deleted social media post.

Within days, the school had confirmed that Kincaid was, indeed, ineligible to play, according to a letter from school Principal Shawn Green. The issue, Karen Kincaid said, comes down to a misinterpretation of eligibility rules when her daughter transferred from Deep Creek, where she played on the girls soccer team as a freshman.

However, seeking a change of scenery, according to her mother, Kincaid transferred to Nansemond River, where Karen Kincaid is a teacher, and was told soon thereafter by school officials that she would be able to play on the Warriors girls soccer team.

Karen Kincaid said no issues were raised at that time, and she and her family assumed there would be no subsequent issues.

While she said it was not smooth sailing for her daughter at the beginning of her time at Nansemond River, and with the girls soccer team, she had worked her way into the team and was playing well up through the Deep Creek game.

That game was one in which Karen Kincaid said her daughter had not planned to play as she had a doctor’s appointment to assess a foot injury. But with the team short of players, Karen Kincaid said, her daughter felt the need to play and be there for the team and reschedule the appointment.

On May 5, Green sent a letter addressed to “Warrior Families” that the school had learned of the eligibility issue the day after the win over Deep Creek, and that a subsequent investigation determined that Kincaid was ineligible. At that time, he wrote that it was possible that the team would have to forfeit seven games, and that it was following up on all Virginia High School League protocols to pursue the matter further.

On the same day, Suffolk Public Schools posted a job announcement online seeking a girls varsity soccer coach for Nansemond River.

On the Twitter feed for Nansemond River Lady Warriors Soccer (@NRLadyWarriors), a May 20 post notes a 5-1 win over Grafton and the team finishing the season 12-1-3, going 5-0-1 after Kincaid was determined to be ineligible.

Another post from the same account on the same day, and apparently from Swerda, said the following, “Just want to take a moment and say thank you to all our players and parents. You have truly made my last year in coaching the very best. Regardless of how this season turned out, you are all champions in my eyes!”

Nansemond River Activities Director Kristy Brett was not immediately available for comment. Previous messages left for school and VHSL officials have not been returned.

Karen Kincaid said she hopes the issue doesn’t keep her daughter from playing soccer going forward. Her daughter still attended every game through the end of the season. While the issue was being resolved, Karen Kincaid said she did not dispute her daughter’s ineligibility — she said no one in her family did anything wrong and were trying to play by the rules as they understood them when her daughter started playing soccer at Nansemond River — and did not try to overturn that. Rather, she had hoped the forfeits could be reversed so the team could continue to play into regionals.

“It’s been difficult for all of us,” Karen Kincaid said, “because emotionally, it’s been really hard to think that a family would do something like that.”