The postseason for high school volleyball started last night, and all I could do is moan and shake my head.
My disgust has nothing to do with area teams or players. I love the volleyball postseason, which is exactly why I’m unhappy.
Instead, it has everything to do with four-class volleyball and more so the waiving of the IHSA’s 1.65 multiplier, which has destroyed the fun of the postseason.
Every year since I was born in 1986, the NewsTribune has had at least one team — oftentimes many more — play for at worst a sectional title.
Or at least that was the case until last year.
For the first time in my then 26 years of life, the volleyball postseason lasted just eight days. Eight!
It was over before it even began.
Last fall, we had just one team win a regional — La Salle-Peru won a Class 3A regional — and that was it.
And it was a shame.
For an area that has been so consistent and prideful of its postseason success — seven schools have advanced to at least the sectional final over those 26 years — it was an uncommon ending and an unsatisfying conclusion.
But here’s the thing: something similar is likely to happen again this fall.
To be honest, we will probably have more than one regional champion and will almost assuredly have at least one local team playing for a sectional title, but it’s not a guarantee like in years past, and in a volleyball season in which most local teams have done nothing but win — nine of the NT’s 14 teams have winning records and five already have 20 wins or more — we won’t have a postseason that will truly represent how great of a volleyball season this fall has been.
Instead, I will only sulk and think about what could’ve been.
And the four-class system and the waiving of the IHSA multiplier is to blame.
Why, you ask? Because it’s put so many of our teams in classes in which they can’t compete.
This season, Putnam County is having its best season this century. The Lady Panthers are 26-4-1, went 8-0 in Tri-County Conference play and won the TCC Tournament.
However, Class 1A Putnam County is rewarded by being in 2A, where it doesn’t belong (no other PC boys or girls program is 2A). Instead of the Lady Panthers winning a 1A regional like girls basketball, boys basketball, baseball and softball all did last year, the volleyball team is the No. 3 seed in a loaded Class 2A Hall Regional and will be in a dogfight every match.
Mendota and Princeton both feel PC’s pain as they are miscast Class 2A schools roaming in 3A, where they don’t belong.
Last fall, both MHS and PHS should’ve challenged Riverdale — which finished third at state — for a 2A sectional title, but four-class volleyball and the waiving of the multiplier forced them to play in 3A, where neither were able to advance past the regional semifinal.
This year it’s more of the same for both schools. The Tigresses — who are 28-7 and won the Three Rivers Conference South Division — are the No. 2 seed in the Class 3A Streator Regional, while the Spikers — who are 20-11-2 and were in the Big Northern Conference West Division race until the final day — were rewarded with the No. 4 seed in the Streator Regional.
And let’s be honest, both have little chance of beating top-seeded and area powerhouse L-P.
The city of Ottawa also has grief. Ottawa is having its best season in nearly two decades but will be forced to play in an Iowa-to-I-55 regional which features Moline, Rock Island and East Moline as well as Minooka. That’s 120 miles of regional! Luckily, the Class 3A Lady Pirates are playing host to the 4A I-80 regional.
Marquette is also out of its element as the Class 1A Lady Crusaders will play in a 2A regional because it was multiplied. Marquette is probably the best equipped of the five teams mentioned to succeed in its new class, but the Lady Cru — enrollment of 193 — shouldn’t have to worry about being 2A in the first place.
My whining and complaining could wind up being a lot about nothing — L-P, Fieldcrest and Bureau Valley are No. 1 regional seeds — but I’m not so certain, and if that’s the case, that’s just sad.
This year’s awesome volleyball season likely won’t have the wide-spread, successful and fitting postseason that it so rightfully deserves.
Jared Bell is a NewsTribune Sports Writer. He can be reached at 220-6938, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.