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BOYS' VOLLEYBALL / MICHAEL ITAGAKI

Some Coaches Would Like to Spike Southern Section's Ruling

March 28, 2000|MICHAEL ITAGAKI

Although treated in routine fashion at the Southern Section Council meeting last week, one ruling's ramifications have people in the volleyball community buzzing.

Last week, an action was passed at the council meeting mandating that enrollment-based playoff sports--including volleyball--no longer permit schools to move up to compete in higher divisions.

Newport Harbor Coach Dan Glenn admitted that the new rule will affect a small number of schools for volleyball--albeit some of the most high-profile programs--but said the result will be some preposterous situations.

Consider the following:

In the 26-year history of Southern Section boys' volleyball championships, Manhattan Beach Mira Costa, Newport Harbor, Laguna Beach and Corona del Mar have combined to win 50% of the top division titles.

All four, under the new rule, would be prohibited from playing Division I next season, given the current enrollment figures.

On the girls' side, since section championship play began in 1972, those same four schools have combined to win 23 of the 29 top division titles, with Mira Costa winning nine times and playing in 15 finals.

In the 22-year history of state championships for the girls, the four schools have combined for 10 of the Southern Section's 15 state Division I titles.

Under the new rule, the Newport Harbor girls' team wouldn't be permitted to defend its two consecutive Division I state titles and three consecutive Division I-AA section titles.

The new rule's restrictions have caused backlash that isn't confined to Orange County.

"This is ridiculous," said Mira Costa boys' Coach Mike Cook, who has led his program to three top-division section titles.

"We're a beach school and we don't want to compete against less than the best. Now you're saying we have to play in Division II? I'm not even sure we would want to win that championship."

Although the section's noble intent was to increase competitive equity within the enrollment-based divisions, the rule effectively spreads out the top programs.

"This discredits CIF competition," UC Irvine men's volleyball Coach Charlie Brande said. "The value of high school athletics is that kids can get the opportunity to play in a more competitive environment, play against the best.

"It's turning into AYSO, where everyone gets a medal. It started out with the enrollment divisions having the best teams play in Division I, and if you weren't at that same level, you could win a championship in a lower division. That's fine.

"But with this restriction . . . why not have the section just pair up the teams and have a hundred or so championship matches? 'The Division 44-BB champion is . . . and the Division 44-BB runner-up plaque goes to. . . .' It's silly."

Even Esperanza Coach Kurt Kersten, whose league presented the proposal to the council, admitted that if the traditional powers didn't play in Division I, it would diminish the importance.

"It definitely would lessen the significance," said Kersten, whose team won the boys' Division I title in 1997 and defeated Mira Costa in the semifinals.

"When I look back at that season, I look at that Mira Costa match just as much as [beating Simi Valley Royal in] the finals."

Kersten also believes the proposal will eliminate the practice of teams that "shop from year to year" for a division they think they can win.

"I would be satisfied if the commitment to move up were for a longer term, say five years or so and not just one year," Kersten said. "And I think those teams would welcome that."

Cook asked where he could sign up for such a plan.

"We wouldn't balk at a proposal like that, no way," Cook said. "Our goal has always been to play against the best. It's always been that way and it always will be."

Said Glenn: "That's what makes it fun, getting to play the best teams in the playoffs. You're not always going to win a championship, but that's not what it's about. It's about competing. I just don't understand the logic of it."

LOOKING AHEAD

Top-ranked Irvine, led by Orange County Championships MVP Kris Kraushaar and UC Irvine-bound B.J. Fell, plays at fourth-ranked Newport Harbor, led by Stanford signee Billy Clayton, in a Sea View League match Tuesday.

Newport Harbor is fresh off an upset of Mira Costa, then top-ranked in Division I, and Irvine is 6-0. The Sailors are the defending league and Division I champions.

If you have an item or idea for the boys' volleyball report, you can fax us at (714) 966-5663 or e-mail us at: mike.itagaki@latimes.com

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