HS Buzz: Volleyball teams have mixed feelings on new PIAA format
The annual pool party has been scratched from the boys volleyball playoffs.
The PIAA tournament will use a standard single-elimination bracket this season, eliminating the four-team pools it previously featured in the quarterfinals. The new format also provides separate dates and sites for each of the four rounds, rather than grouping the quarters, semis and championship on the same weekend.
It's a change met with mixed emotion.
“It's nice to have separate matches spaced out a little bit so you can focus on one at a time, but I did like the tournament format,” North Allegheny coach Dan Schall said. “There's a pretty close-knit volleyball community of coaches, and it was always great to see some very, very familiar faces and teams. That was a neat celebration to bring all those teams together. I certainly will miss that.”
North Allegheny (17-0), which will open the tournament against WPIAL third-place finisher Norwin on Wednesday, has been ranked first in the state all season by the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association and is chasing its fifth PIAA championship.
The quarterfinals are Saturday, the semifinals are June 4 and the finals are June 8 at Penn State. Those three- or four-day gaps between games could allow teams to become more strategic.
“You're able to game plan a bit more,” Schall said. “When you're in the tournament format, it's a lot of on-the-fly preparation. You might get an hour or two between matches to get a game plan to your guys. But with this, you can really break teams down during practice, watch a little more video and go through a bit of what they do. It's more of a methodical preparation this way.”
WPIAL Class AA champion Ambridge, which won the 2009 PIAA title, has been ranked second in the state all year by the PVCA, behind District 3's Northeastern. The Bridgers will play Meadville on Wednesday.
Their star junior likes the change.
“With the (old) format you would be worn down by the finals and semifinals,” said Lee Smith, who Thursday was named the WPIAL's Class AA MVP. “With this, it will give you time to relax and whatnot. That's pretty cool. I like that.”
Connellsville senior Ethan Kenney became the 28th Connellsville wrestler to earn a Division I scholarship when he committed to West Virginia.
Kenney was a four-time PIAA qualifier. He placed seventh in the state tournament twice and ended his high school career with a third-place PIAA medal. Kenney also was a two-time WPIAL champion and finished his career with a record of 155-33.
It appears the PIAA made a good decision to move the state basketball championships from Bryce Jordan Center in State College back to Giant Center in Hershey this winter. The PIAA brought in $63,000 more this year.
Comings and goings
Several coaches were on the way in and out this past week. Belle Vernon baseball coach Dan Palm had his job opened by the school district.
Burrell hired a boys basketball coach (Shawn Bennis) and wrestling coach (Josh Shields), and North Hills (Lauren Wilmus) and Springdale (George Vlassich) hired girls basketball coaches.
Gateway's school board also named Randy Rovesti as its new interim athletic director, replacing current interim AD Harry Orbin. Rovesti, who will retire from the same position at Norwin at the end of this school year, will work part-time.