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Prep sports: Redivisioning close

CIF-Southern Section’s proposal presents a mixed bag for different sports; football cou

Posted: March 10, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 10, 2012 1:55 a.m.

The CIF-Southern Section has released its proposed playoff groupings for the 2012-2014 seasons, and the road to a Northern Division title in football may be getting easier for Foothill League schools.

There are four Foothill League sports that stand to move divisions under the proposal, and two that stand out for their lack of movement.

The league’s girls soccer teams would move back down to Division II, after spending two years in Division I in which the league combined for a 1-8 postseason record.

In boys soccer, on the other hand, the proposal would send the league’s teams down a division to Division IV.

In boys volleyball, the proposal has the league moving up to Division I.

Girls tennis teams would move up to Division II, after West Ranch reached the Division III semifinals in each of the last two seasons.

And while the football teams are happy to stay put in an adjusted Northern Division, some baseball and boys tennis coaches were surprised to be staying put.

In baseball, the league is 4-11 since 2009 in the Division I postseason, and no local team has made it past the second round.

“I don’t know the criteria of how they make the decision,” said Valencia head baseball coach Jared Snyder. “I thought it was off playoff record, and I know our record has not been very good.”

But that doesn’t mean Snyder isn’t happy to have the opportunity to compete at the highest level.

“I think it shows the respect that we have as a league and the caliber of teams we have. It’s a fair evaluation and we should probably be (in Division I),” Snyder said. “It’s a fair evaluation of the league and I think we’re capable of competing at that level.”

West Ranch coach Casey Burrill agreed.

“I think in general we believe that our talent and past performance warrants (us being in) Division II, but we all actively seek to play the best talent and consider it an honor,” he said. “I thought we would stay (in Division I), but that was just a gut feeling. It wouldn’t have surprised me if we went down.”

Leagues have until March 23 to file an appeal.

Under the proposal in football, the Marmonte League would be moved out of the Northern Division and into the Pac 5, the Southern Section’s top division in football.

Replacing the Marmonte League in the Northern Division would be the Pac-7 League, formerly of the Western Division.
The Pac-7 includes Arroyo Grande, Righetti, San Luis Obispo, Atascadero, Pioneer Valley, Paso Robles and St. Joseph high schools.

Arroyo Grande won the Western Division championship last season.

“From a competitive standpoint it puts everybody on a more level playing field and I think what any coach is looking for is a level playing field in terms of going deep in the playoffs or a CIF championship,” said Valencia head coach Larry Muir.
“And it would seem this gives you a chance with schools that have neighborhood kids and going from the pool of kids you get in your neighborhood. That’s what you’re looking for.”

Hart head coach Mike Herrington, who is on the CIF-SS Coaches Advisory Committee, said he anticipates the Marmonte League appealing the decision.

“I can see that, but the only thing that they can appeal would be travel distance because that’s one of the things, geographic region was one of the criteria,” he said. “But the argument CIF has is you had three of the top teams in that league, and our Pac 5 division is our premier division. Because you had three teams in the last three years that have been in the top 20 or even the top 10, you’re league should be in our premier division, which is the Pac 5.”

Herrington said he would put the likelihood of the proposal ultimately being approved at 80 percent.

Marmonte League teams have won each of the past three Northern Division championships with Westlake winning this season and in 2009, and Oaks Christian winning in 2010.

Then a member of the Channel League and now in the Marmonte League, the St. Bonaventure Seraphs won in 2007 and 2008.

In girls soccer, the proposed move to Division II could pay immediate dividends for the league.

In 2009, Saugus won the CIF-SS Division II championship before the league was moved up to Division I the next season.

It has been a struggle in the section’s top division over the last two seasons, with Saugus becoming the first league school to win a Division I playoff game when it defeated Tesoro in penalty kicks in the first round this season.

CIF-SS Division I is regarded as one of the top divisions in the country for girls soccer, and currently boasts five of the top 20 teams in ESPN High Schools’ national rankings.

Saugus and West Ranch were both ranked in the top 50 nationally this season by ESPNHS, and Saugus currently sits at No. 39.

“That’s great, that’s a relief,” said Saugus head coach Natalie Helgeson about the prospect of moving back to Division II. “Only two years, we were expecting to have to petition and have to pay our dues (at Division I).”

Helgeson said the league’s coaches have discussed the matter in the past, and they all agree the league is better suited in Division II.

“We were discussing that at the coaches’ meeting that we haven’t had success (at Division I). We were all wiped out in the first round last year and we were the only one’s that squeaked by this year. We want to feel successful and go deep in the CIF playoffs. We feel like we belong in Division II.”

Under the proposal, the Foothill League would be paired with the Bay, Big VIII, Channel, Freeway, Marmonte, Moore, Southwestern and Sierra leagues.

In boys soccer, West Ranch was the only school to advance out of the first round in the CIF-SS Division III playoffs this season.
If the proposal is approved, the league would be moved down to Division IV to compete with the Del Rey, Mojave River, Montview, Mt. Baldy, Ocean, Pioneer, Santa Fe, Suburban, Sunbelt and Tri-Valley leagues.

After both the Valencia and West Ranch girls tennis teams reached the CIF-SS Division III semifinals in 2010, and the Wildcats made a return trip in 2011, the proposed alignment would move the league up to Division II.

“We’ve never been able to win Division III so I don’t know, usually they don’t move you up until someone in your league wins it, and we’ve never won it,” said Valencia head coach Annie Kellogg. Kellogg also said that the league was hopeful it would be moved down from Division II to Division III in boys tennis — a move that isn’t included in the CIF-SS proposal.

No Foothill League boys tennis team has won a CIF-SS title since Burbank High, no longer a member of the league, won the Division III title in 1993.

In boys volleyball, the league’s six teams would move up from Division II to Division I.

Last season, Valencia advanced to the Division II quarterfinals before falling to Beckman High.

The Vikings won a Division II title in 2008, 2006, 2004 and 2003, and played for the title in 2005.

Before moving down to Division II in 2003, Valencia lost the CIF-SS Division I title game in 2001 and 2002.

The Playoff Groupings Appeals Committee will meet on March 27 to hear the concerns of particular leagues.

Individual schools cannot appeal the decision.


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