WPIAL adjusts formats for girls tennis sections

| Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The WPIAL girls tennis landscape will be a little more crowded this fall.

Rather than five sections in Class AAA and six in Class AA, there will be four sections in each classification, the WPIAL said last week.

Class AAA will be comprised of two nine-team sections and two with 10 teams. Class AA will have three sections with 11 teams each and one 10-team section.

The goal of the realignment is to foster an environment of competitiveness while aiming to maintain balance across the sections, according to WPIAL tennis steering committee chair Lane Stoner.

“We heard from coaches that they wanted to have more of an opportunity to play different teams,” Stoner said. “We tried to align teams geographically, but also based on competitiveness.

“We wanted to make each section balanced from the stronger down to the weaker teams.”

Each team will play its section opponents once during the regular season. The remainder of the schedule will be made up of nonsection matches.

“A couple of years ago, the total number of matches was reduced from 20 to 18, so that had a little to do with (the realignment),” Stoner said. “Teams will still have the opportunity to play 11 or 12 cross-section matches and create a strong schedule.”

The top four teams in each section will qualify for the WPIAL playoffs, making for a 16-team tournament in each classification. As has been the case in the past, preliminary (or pigtail) matches can be added if there are ties that can't be broken at the conclusion of the regular season.

As was the case last season, there will be 81 teams competing in WPIAL girls tennis in fall 2014.

Shady Side Academy will once again “play up” into Class AAA next season.

Only one team — Greensburg Salem — will be changing classification. The Golden Lions will drop from Class AAA to compete in Class AA this fall.

Like the rest of the WPIAL, the team champions from 2013 — North Allegheny (AAA) and Greensburg Central Catholic (AA) — will see some new opponents on the other side of the net when the 2014 season gets under way.

North Allegheny will compete in Section 2-AAA with Butler, Hampton, Knoch, Mars, North Hills, Pine-Richland and Seneca Valley as well as newcomers Moon and Shaler.

Greensburg Central Catholic's competition in Section 1-AA will once again consist of Brownsville, California, Jeannette, Mt. Pleasant and Southmoreland. New to the section are Greensburg Salem, McGuffey, South Park, Thomas Jefferson and Washington.

The realignment of Class AA — the reduction from six sections to four — was particularly difficult for the committee, according to Stoner.

“Class AA was definitely more of a challenge,” Stoner said. “We've never gone this small in terms of the number of sections.

“Our goal was to try to balance the numbers, and hopefully in the end, parity will be created. Overall, we're hoping this will make things better.”

The WPIAL boys tennis alignment will remain the same — five sections each in both Class AAA and Class AA — for the spring 2014 season. The steering committee will meet again in the fall to discuss realignment options for boys beginning with the spring 2015 season.

“There are more girls teams than boys,” Stoner said. “We're going to try to keep things aligned with the girls and keep the sections as similar as we can.”

Kevin Ritchart is a freelance writer.

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