By Lisa Byers
October 9, 2012 7:00 a.m. MEADVILLE —
Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association girls and boys volleyball are getting a facelift.
A full day of volleyball at Penn State University’s Multi-sport Indoor Facility? No more.
A chance to redeem yourself after a rare lackluster performance in the early stages of the District 10 tournament? Example: Cochranton rallying back from the loser’s bracket to win the 2012 District 10 Class AA boys volleyball championship. No more.
“It’s going to be different,” Maplewood boys and girls head volleyball coach Sheila Bancroft said.
But is different good? There are some mixed emotions in Crawford County.
First, here’s an explanation of what has changed:
The PIAA girls volleyball tournaments will no longer feature a quarterfinal round of pool play. Instead, the entire tournament will follow a single elimination bracket.
District 10, to mirror the new PIAA state tournament format, also dropped pool play effective this season. The state tournament now includes the usual first round best-of-five contest that for years took place locally at Penn State Behrend.
But the quarterfinal round of pool play has been replaced by a best-of-five, single match. And that match and the semifinal match will no longer be played at the state championship site. Only the state championship match will be played at Central York High School.
“I don’t know what to expect until we go through it,” Bancroft said. “They are trying to get the best two teams in the finals. I’m not sure that will happen. What it does is limit two teams from the west from getting to the final.”
What it also does is pit the District 10 champion up against the District 9 champion in the state quarterfinals — given both teams win their first round contests. That was last year’s state championship matchup.
“We, as the west, usually have a strong showing,” Bancroft said. “But that won’t happen anymore. It’s just another new thing. I have mixed emotions about it.”
Conneaut Area Senior High coach Tim Schleicher, who coached Linesville to the Class A state title last season, sees a lot of positives in the switch at the district and state level.
“It mirrors what you played during the season,” he said. “So that’s a good thing.
“I don’t know of too many sports where you can win a state championship and lose a game or match along the way,” he added. “It mirrors a lot of other sports that others like to follow. For those who don’t follow volleyball, maybe it won’t be as foreign to them now.”
That is one of the areas where the coaches seem to agree. A best-of-five match is appealing.
“The format reflects how you play in the season,” Schleicher said. “A comparison … In basketball, when it gets to the postseason, you aren’t going to ask them to play three quarters to see who goes on.”
Schleicher isn’t as excited about playing those best of five matches at one venue on half a court like the District 10 tournament is set up.
Six teams make it to the Class A playoffs. The top two seeds earn a bye. The remaining four seeds play a best of five at 4 p.m. on Oct. 30 at Meadville Area Senior High School on side-by-side courts.
Eight teams advance to the Class AA playoffs. Two of those quarterfinal matchups will be played at 6 p.m. on Oct. 30, also at MASH. The remaining two matches will be played starting at 8 p.m.
“I like the idea of best-of-five,” Schleicher said. “I don’t know how I feel about playing side by side. When we talked about changes to the format at the coaches clinic, I was all for best-of-five. I was thinking about our run last year.
“One of the best moments and best matches was our first round state game at Cochranton (High School). The atmosphere was great. The playoffs should showcase the game.”
The District 10 boys championships have been bracket format for many years. But this will be the first year for single elimination.
And like girls, the quarterfinal round of pool play at states has been eliminated.
Bancroft feels the new format will hurt teams locally.
“It’s really going to hurt our area,” she said. “It’s going to be tough for any of us to get out.”
Cochranton coach Brad Custead isn’t sure how it will work out.
“I guess I don’t really know until we do it,” he said. “I’m not going to say it hurts us. But I don’t know.”
Prior to last season, District 10 had appeared in three straight PIAA Class AA state finals.