Volleyball: Fewer teams, more controversy

Realignment creates unjust playoff system, So. Ariz. coaches say Alignment changes have created unjust system, coaches say
2011-10-21T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T09:43:44Z Volleyball: Fewer teams, more controversyMichael J. Craven Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
October 21, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Amy Johnson extracted a stuffed, black leather notebook from her bag and began flipping through pages until she found the one with all the scribbles on it.

She read down the list of teams she'd written on the paper, reassuring herself (probably for the 13th time) that her Salpointe Catholic volleyball team would be one of the few from Southern Arizona to make it to the postseason this year.

If this was last year or any other year, she'd have much less to worry about; her three-loss squad would be a shoo-in for state, a high seed even.

However, the Arizona Interscholastic Association's realignment this season will likely cut the number of local postseason-eligible volleyball teams from 13 to seven or fewer this year.

The change is aimed at cutting costs with more geographically friendly schedules and fewer teams going to the state playoffs because there are fewer divisions.

"I hate it because there are too many good teams that get left out," Johnson said.

Johnson points to Lake Havasu and Sabino as examples.

While it has played eight matches against teams in a higher division, Lake Havasu has built up a 15-0 record while playing only four matches against teams in its own division, Division II.

Meanwhile, Sabino, a team Johnson believes would beat Lake Havasu handily, has suffered five losses playing a tough Division II schedule and will likely be left out of postseason play.

Three of Southern Arizona's top coaches sounded off about how the recent changes have affected the volleyball landscape. In their own words, here's what they had to say:

Bill Lang, Ironwood Ridge

• Team facts: Division II, 10-4, No. 17 in state power points.

• Quotable: "I'm upset because we're a still a good team, we're 9-1 in our section, but we decided to beef up our schedule like we do every year, and we took three losses to three Phoenix teams. Now we're in the position of possibly not going to state just because we lost to three good teams. In 20 years of coaching, I've never been in a situation where the section wasn't decided by competition within the section. How can you judge a sectional champion when the top teams don't play each other? The math involved with the power rankings just doesn't add up."

Heather Moore-Martin, Catalina

• Team facts: Division III, 15-0, No. 2 in state power points.

• Quotable: "I don't really know the solution. The AIA is hurting, money-wise, so I know they had to bring the divisions down to save money. But for me, I go to Prescott and go to the Toyota Center for the first two rounds of state. It's tough and it doesn't really give anything back to my school or our fans or the parents. If they want to watch us play in state, they've got to take a day off work and go to Prescott. I'd like to see how it's saving money."

Amy Johnson, Salpointe Catholic

• Team facts: Division II, 13-3, No. 7 in state power points.

• Quotable: "The thing that doesn't seem fair is that there are no common opponents now because there are no more regions. You don't even play half the teams in your section because there are 50 of them. And what really sucks is, in actuality you could beat a couple teams that are in front of you, but because you play a tougher schedule, not go to state. Why do a 24-team tournament for basketball and not for volleyball? Why does baseball and softball get double-elimination? I don't know. It just doesn't seem equal. They need to make a decision and stick with it."

By The Numbers

49-51

Total teams per division

16

Playoff teams taken per division

13-4

Projected minimum record needed to make the postseason

10

Projected number of Southern Arizona teams with winning records left out

13

Southern Arizona playoff teams last year

7

Projected Southern Arizona playoff teams this year

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