High School Sports

You shouldn’t have to choose between your football and volleyball teams

Althoff volleyball coach Sara Thomas-Dietrich will lead the Crusaders in a super-sectional volleyball match Saturday as the football team prepares for a second-round playoff game in Taylorville.
Althoff volleyball coach Sara Thomas-Dietrich will lead the Crusaders in a super-sectional volleyball match Saturday as the football team prepares for a second-round playoff game in Taylorville.

If things work according to schedule, the Althoff girls volleyball team will be able to clinch its trip to the state tournament by 2 p.m. Saturday, then hightail it from Wesclin High School in Trenton to Taylorville in time to see the football Crusaders kick off their second-round playoff game at 4 p.m.

But many successful volleyball and football teams from other Illinois high schools will be scheduled to play in direct conflict with each other with a lot more distance between them. Normal Community High School, for instance, will be at home for the 4A volleyball super-sectional match at the same time its football team battles Benet Academy 110 miles away in Lisle.

Such conflicts wouldn’t be so frustrating — for Belleville, for Normal, or for any other community torn between loyalties to their football and volleyball teams — if they weren’t preventable.

When the Illinois High School Association expanded volleyball to four classes, a decision was made to move super-sectional matches to Saturdays, when most second-round football playoff games are played.

Matt Troha, IHSA assistant executive director in charge of communications, said the decision was based largely on the increased travel demands created when more teams became postseason eligible. It also was thought that the weekend games would be more convenient to fans and families, thus attracting larger crowds.

Instead, the new schedule has divided parents, siblings, classmates, friends and fans who now have to choose between two of their school’s teams in the midst of their championship runs.

Edwardville head football coach Matt Martin thought he’d have to confront such a conflict this weekend. Were it not for the volleyball Tigers’ disappointing loss in the 4A sectional finals Thursday, his middle-hitter daughter Kate would have been in Normal playing for a state tournament berth while his own team battled in Oswego for a trip to the 8A football quarterfinals.

This kind of scheduling is a problem for local media outlets, too, and therefore an issue for fans who can’t make the trip.

BND sportswriters will get their first Friday night off in 10 weeks because there is nothing on the local schedule. But we’ll be chasing our tails Saturday in the attempt to provide fair coverage of seven football games, two volleyball super-sectional matches, and a Freeburg cross country team that is favored at the state meet.

We’ll do our best to make it work by deploying the entire staff of full-time writers, a stable of professional freelancers, trade agreements we’ve forged with other Illinois newspapers and cooperation from our local coaches.

Smaller community papers don’t have those kinds of resources, though. I can tell you from experience that their one-man shows are in for a brow-beating Monday morning no matter which team they choose to follow.

In the meantime, Columbia High School Athletic Director Joe Iorio — who would have been torn, too, if the volleyball Eagles would have won their sectional title match Thursday — is doing his part to help.

The IHSA Athletic Administrators Committee on which he sits has formally recommended that volleyball super-sectionals be moved to the Monday of state finals week. This sensible proposal follows the scheduling practices for both boys and girls basketball, which play their super-sectional games the Tuesday before championship weekend.

Why can’t volleyball super-sectionals be moved to Monday? I don’t know what rationale there is for not making that change .... But I’ll be eager to hear what the other side is.

Seth Schoonover, member IHSA volleyball advisory committee

“If it is about the kids and getting the biggest crowd to support them in their quest for a state title then get them support,” Iorio said in an email. “Why split the community in making a choice to support football or go to volleyball?”

The proposal will be considered by the volleyball advisory committee during its next meeting the first week of December. But it won’t be the first time it’s been discussed.

Why a change hasn’t already been made is a mystery to Seth Schoonover, athletic director at Yorkville High School and first-year member of the IHSA volleyball committee.

He knows the conflict is hard on the schools, hard on the students and “without a doubt, has been a bad deal for volleyball.”

“I’d like to see some kind of remedy to this,” he said. “Why can’t volleyball super-sectionals be moved to Monday? I don’t know what rationale there is for not making that change. I do know this has been brought up several times before and that there are two sides to every story.

“’But I’ll be eager to hear what the other side is.”

So will a lot of us.

Sports Editor Todd Eschman: 618-239-2540, @tceschman

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