Well it’s November, which means we’ve officially reached the first postseason of the high school sporting year.
This one arrives with a bit of intrigue for a couple sports, actually. And of course, an accompanying amount of confusion and controversy.
Let’s talk about the good stuff first. At least we hope it will be good stuff. The California Interscholastic Federation Volleyball State Championships will debut it’s own Open Division, following in the footsteps of what the state basketball playoffs have had the last two seasons. Can it be a good thing? Yes. Could it negatively affect Northern California’s recent dominance at the state championships? Probably.
NorCal volleyball is coming off of a 2015 season in which it claimed four of the five possible state banners. Two of those state championship programs — Archbishop Mitty-San Jose and Notre Dame-Belmont — are among the top-ranked teams in the state and almost assured to be in the Open field. It goes without saying that as many as four or five of NorCal’s best volleyball teams will be cannibalized in the NorCal Open bracket. And without the depth of quality programs that SoCal has, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the state title pendulum swing the other way.
While it’s a little easier to see defending state champions eliminated in the Open bracket, we’d be bummed out to see a program like Menlo-Atherton-Atherton become a casualty. The Bears were the only NorCal team NOT to win a state final a year ago, having been swept by Redondo-Redondo Beach in the Div. I final. Each of the past two years, Menlo-Atherton has climbed one extra step: It reached its first NorCal final in 2014 and lost. It then won its first NorCal title in 2015. It should get a puncher’s chance to win that first state title without having to go through four-time defending Div. II state champion Mitty — just to get there.
Still, just like in hoops, there’s a good chance for some really dramatic volleyball to be played throughout all six divisions. And we look forward to that.
Football in the North Coast Section also debuts its Open Division, and expectations of who will make the four-team field created some good conversation over the last few weeks of October. One odd thing has surfaced regarding De La Salle-Concord.
When the Spartans negotiated their separation from the East Bay Athletic League following the 2011 season, De La Salle agreed to play a largely independent schedule. It would not compete for the EBAL title, but the league agreed to let De La Salle lay claim the league’s one automatic playoff berth each season. The team with the automatic berth is recognized as a league champion in the postseason, and is guaranteed hosting rights in first-round games.
The NCS has said that the Open Division semifinal games will be considered first-round games because it’s a four-team bracket. So there’s now a very real chance that any EBAL team (such as Monte Vista-Danville, who is 9-0 and ranked No. 10 in the state heading into November) to be added to the Open field would almost certainly be the only non-league champion and would be guaranteed a road game from the get-go. That’s tough.
We would hope that the NCS might re-think this and realize that it’s the section’s four best teams. They should all be on equal ground, pure-seeded one through four and the high seeds host. Seems simple. But it won’t be.
That being said, we hope you’re fired up for playoffs. The next six weeks will be pretty hard to beat.
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