High school notebook: WPIAL addresses boys, girls lacrosse concerns
The WPIAL won't revert lacrosse to the Division 1/Division 2 system used in years past, but a smaller change could ease the competitive-balance concerns among boys teams.
The WPIAL board of directors on Monday approved an alignment for boys lacrosse that increases Class AAA to four sections and Class AA to three. With smaller sections and fewer section matches, the WPIAL will schedule each team a couple of nonsection matches with similarly skilled teams.
The switch affects only boys teams.
Girls lacrosse remains unchanged. The decisions were based on recommendations from the two WPIAL steering committees for lacrosse.
“We felt that if we could spread the (boys) sections out, you would provide a little more flexibility,” said WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley, noting there also would be fewer mandated mismatches.
As for the girls committee: “Their recommendation was to leave it alone for a year,” O'Malley said. “We'll step back and look at it again then.”
Updated section alignments and schedules for the 2018 season will appear on the WPIAL website Tuesday. The WPIAL will provide seven or eight games for each boys team, O'Malley said. The PIAA limit is 18 games.
“What it does for the competitive (boys) teams like Mt. Lebanon, which wants to go to Philadelphia to play in tournaments, they have the flexibility to do that,” O'Malley said.
The WPIAL traditionally divided its lacrosse teams by program strength rather than school enrollment. The experienced teams competed in one division while the upstarts were able to voluntarily play each other in another.
That ended before this past season when the PIAA expanded lacrosse to two enrollment-based classifications. Lacrosse is one of the WPIAL's smaller sports with 43 girls teams and 40 boys teams, and some coaches and administrators feared lopsided scores could cause teams to fold.
The two WPIAL lacrosse committees considered those concerns independently. The boys committee decided limited action was needed, in part because the sport's physicality puts inexperienced players at risk, O'Malley said.
Seneca Valley athletic director Heather Lewis, a girls lacrosse committee member, examined this past year's scores in detail and found the competition wasn't as unbalanced as many thought.
“While there were discrepancies in some scores, there are a lot of teams that aren't far off from being in playoffs,” Lewis said. “We as a committee looked at it and said we're fairly well-balanced. The three sections all have a couple of strong teams and maybe one or two weak teams. And then there's a good core of teams right across that middle band that were competitive.
“Do we need to change all this if we've got for the most part balanced sections and competitive lacrosse?”
The girls committee also wondered whether it was wise for the WPIAL to treat individual sports differently. No other sport separates the haves from the have-nots.
“We need to be careful to not set a precedent,” Lewis said. “We have a couple of lacrosse teams that are losing games by large margins. Well, we have that in every sport.”
The WPIAL soccer championships will return to Highmark Stadium next fall. The WPIAL administration considered holding the eight games at high school stadiums before Highmark submitted a second bid that was deemed acceptable, O'Malley said.
Raise for refs
Officials working WPIAL playoffs will receive a $5-per-game raise next school year under a $1.88 million budget approved Monday by the WPIAL board for the 2017-18 school year. The raise affects officials in all sports. Next year's budget was reduced slightly from the $1.92 million approved last year.
The Penn Hills administration informed the WPIAL it will meet the board's demand and suspend boys basketball coach Dan DeRose for the first four games next season. DeRose was punished for speaking critically of referees after a February playoff loss. Had Penn Hills not suspended DeRose, the team would have been barred from the postseason.
The WPIAL denied DeRose's appeal in May.