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Albany area school probes smashing of runner-up plaque

Upset about losing a championship game, several members of the Shenendehowa High girls' soccer team smashed their second-place plaque by throwing it to the ground, an act the school's varsity coach saw but failed to stop.

District officials now are investigating the incident, which happened Nov. 9 but came to light only after an anonymous posting on the school's website.

Shen varsity girls soccer coach Holli Mulholland won't be fired for her failure to intervene, Shen athletic director Chris Culnan said. But he declined to say if she or any students face other disciplinary action.

"Our girls made a mistake," Culnan said. "They did something that was extremely unsportsmanlike. They made a tremendous mistake, and our coach missed a teachable moment. From there, we're just trying to correct it."

The incident occurred after Shen lost the Section II Class AA championship game to Bethlehem, 3-2, in overtime. It marked the fourth consecutive year Bethlehem had knocked Shen out of the playoffs.

After the game, Shen received a runner-up plaque during a ceremony at Stillwater High, where the game was played.

As the team walked to the bus taking them back to campus, the plaque was thrown to the ground several times, according to a person familiar with what happened.

The website posting said players later burned the plaque, but district officials said they were unsure if that had happened.

Though she didn't explicitly condone their behavior, Mulholland knew the students were smashing the trophy and failed to stop them, Culnan said.

"Holli is incredibly remorseful," Culnan said. "No one feels worse about this than she does."

Mulholland didn't respond to a voicemail message left for her at school Thursday.

During her nine years as coach, Mulholland has overseen one of the top girls' soccer programs in the region. Her team won a state title in 2004, her first season.

Both Mulholland and the players have met with Culnan, he said.

Culnan said the school doesn't have the plaque, and he isn't sure what happened to it.

The plaque is about 10 inches by 13 inches and valued at about $50, a Section II official said. The plaques are given to both the champions and runners-up, and most schools display them in trophy cases or hang them in hallways.

Shen officials first became aware that the plaque had been vandalized after someone posted a message on Dec. 15 on the "Grapevine," a message board on Shen's website that allows users to post questions and district officials to post answers. The superintendent then became aware of what happened, prompting the investigation.

"Shen athletics always has prided itself on win with class and lose with class," Culnan said. "I think the reaction was unsportsmanlike. I think they've been made aware of that. The coach and players feel my disappointment."

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