For those of you who may not have already known, the Section 1 athletic council changed the qualifying standards to the annual Section 1 tournament; a ruling that was made after teams had already made their schedules for the season. Here is the full-length feature that did not run in Monday’s paper. The shorter version can be found in the print edition.
A change to the sectional tournament qualifying format by the Section 1 athletic council may end up costing some volleyball teams home-court advantage, or even a spot in the tournament.
The new ruling requires volleyball teams to base its qualifying number of points off of a full 20-match schedule, a decision that was made after teams made their schedules for the season.
“It’s the wrong decision,” Section 1 coordinator and Hen Hud coach Diane Swertfager (pictured below) said.
Unlike many fall sports, several volleyball teams play in weekend tournaments, which count as a match on the schedule but do not count towards a team’s point total. In essence, tournaments are strictly for the experience.
Previously, teams were required to accumulate a point total that was 40 percent of its regular season schedule, a .400 winning percentage, in order to qualify for the section tournament. According to the Section 1 handbook, teams are awarded four points per win and two points for a tie.
For volleyball, which is allotted 20 matches per season, teams were required to get 32 of a possible 80 points to qualify for sections.
The new ruling states that all teams — regardless of tournament play — will be required to attain 32 points whether they play 20 matches or less. It’s not a big deal for teams which only participate in one or two tournaments, but for those which play in more, it can be crippling.
“I think it was just a little bit of a misunderstanding that you’re actually hurting teams now, and penalizing us when (a team) plays 16 (matches) and forcing them to count it as 20 (matches),” Swertfager said. “I’m hoping that common sense takes the lead here and they adjust that.”
Teams earn bonus points for playing more competitive teams, regardless of whether it wins or loses the match. Teams earn two bonus points for playing a team with a winning percentage of .750 or higher, and one bonus point for playing a team with a winning percentage between .500 and .749.
Hen Hud (4-5), which plays 15 regular season matches, is just one of several teams that elects to play in tournaments virtually every weekend during the season.
Ursuline coach Gigi Kemp has the same mindset as many coaches when it comes to the new ruling — if nothing changes, she’ll makes changes accordingly next year; even if it means playing weaker competition.
“It’s definitely going to change my mind,” Kemp said. “If I’m going to have such a tough schedule again, I have to know I’m going to have some losses. I have to make sure that I’m going to get those points.”
Haldane, the 10-time reigning Class D section champs, runs the risk of possibly missing this year’s tournament because of the new ruling after a 2-5 start against its competitive league and overall schedule.
“A lot of us were freaking out after we found out,” Haldane captain Kelly Vahos said. “When we found out, we were like, ‘We need to upset some of these teams and if we don’t, we’re going to be in a tough situation.’”
Taking the ‘power’ away from power leagues
For teams such as Hen Hud and Panas, who play in the same league alongside John Jay, Arlington and Haldane — all dominant programs in their respective classes in recent years — the maximum percentage is even tougher to hit when playing the minimum two matches against each league opponent during the year.
Few teams are more affected by the change than Haldane. The Blue Devils (4-5) have already been swept by Arlington and Panas this year, and still have to face each again down the road. Haldane notched huge league wins against Hen Hud and John Jay last week to keep its section tournament hopes alive.
“The second we got into the huddle for the match against (John Jay), me and captain Katie Cunningham were both just like, ‘We need to upset this team — right now,’” Vahos (pictured right) said. “We knew we had to win, it’s just one of those things.”
The good news for Haldane is that because it plays in such a competitive league, and because the rest of its schedule is against competitive opponents, the bonus points should come in bunches. However, the team still needs to win a few of those matches to have the chance to defend its section title.
Most of Haldane’s league — Arlington (7-3), John Jay (8-2) and Panas (7-2) — will clinch winning records and knock on the .750 winning percentage-plateau, which will net the Blue Devils a minimum of six bonus points from league play alone. Other one-match opponents such as Ardsley (9-0), Clarkstown South (8-2) and Ossining (9-2) will also be in the same boat for the Blue Devils.
Theoretically, two more wins will give the Blue Devils a minimum total of 33 points this year, assuming the aforementioned teams finish with a winning record.
“Hopefully (the athletic council) will realize that the game of volleyball is a lot about competition; especially when you get to the state level, you’re going to need some pool play (experience), so the tournaments are an important part of the schedule,” Haldane coach Melissa Rossano said. “The fact that (tournaments) don’t count for anything, but (the athletic council) will almost hold it against us for playing in (tournaments), I think that’s a problem.”
Rossano, who coached Haldane to a state championship in 2011, said that she has discussed the new format with her team and that the Blue Devils have started to look for ways it can get the necessary 32 points to qualify for the section tournament, assuming the format is not changed by the end of the season.
“I think (the athletic council) made a rash decision, and made it at the beginning of the season when our schedules were already set,” Rossano said. “It’s hard to even go back, because maybe I would have made some different choices in my schedule, had I known.”
When asked how she’d feel if Haldane were to miss the tournament because of the new qualifying format, Rossano smiled and said, “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
Hen Hud will have a similar schedule to Haldane’s to end the season, with matches against Fox Lane, Arlington, Panas, Haldane, Ossining and two against John Jay.
With one less match than Haldane, the Sailors, who have appeared in a section final in 16 of the last 18 seasons, could likely miss the Class B section tournament this year.
Swertfager said that a group of athletic directors from Section 1 will give a presentation to the athletic council this week in an effort to overturn the decision before the section tournament begins on Oct. 24.
Swertfager said that any decision made from the hearing, which could be made the day of or later, will go into effect immediately.