Coaches give new playoff format mixed reviews

September 12, 1994|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,Sun Staff Writer

The Carroll volleyball scene has a couple of new twists this season, and both have received mixed reviews from the five county coaches.

First is a new region playoff format that will be used with volleyball and soccer this fall that allows any team that applies to play in a region tournament.

Second is the new midseason county tournament that will bring all five Carroll teams together. Should the one-day tournament determine the county championship? This season, the answer is no. All the coaches like the idea of a county tournament. Some feel it should determine the county champ, others do not.

The change in the region tournament has more coaches talking.

It doesn't matter if a team is winless or undefeated, if a school applies it can compete. Near the conclusion of the regular season, a blind draw will determine the brackets for each region tournament. It's possible that two undefeated teams could face each other in the first round.

"I'm really disappointed regionals are going that way," said North Carroll second-year coach Don'a Martin, whose Panthers finished 14-1 last year to earn the top seed in their region. "And if the county championship would be determined by the tournament, what are the kids playing the regular season for? None of the professional or collegiate [leagues] use a blind draw, so why should we?"

Liberty coach Helen Derwin sees it from the other side after struggling through an uncharacteristic poor season in 1993, and she doesn't like it either.

"If you've just gone through a rough 2-13 season, why would you want to extend if for whatever reason? I would just as well move on and think about next year," she said.

"It seems like it would be good for kids who have never been there, but shouldn't they have to earn it?"

Teams can withdraw from the tournament before the draw date.

New Westminster co-coach Dana Falls, who joins Michelle Salafia-Crouse in taking over the reins for former Owls coach Karol Brown, didn't get a first-hand look at the previous format, which had the top four teams qualifying for the region tournament.

"I really have mixed feelings about [the new format]," he said. "On one hand, it's good that everyone gets an opportunity to experience the tournament. On the other hand, it makes for a bigger tournament and with no pressure on making the tournament, there's little to strive for. You also hope the best team wins. I'd hate to see a top team knocked out early against another top team in a game that should have been played in the semifinals or finals."

South Carroll veteran coach Debbie Eaton has a "wait-and-see" attitude, while Francis Scott Key coach Leo Totten sees some positives and negatives in it.

"I'm curious to see how it works out," he said. "It doesn't seem to put as much meaning in the regular season."

Totten says it should be an advantage to the Eagles this season. He has a relatively young team and can use the regular season to get adjusted and hope to be peaking by the region playoffs.

It was Totten and Francis Scott Key that also encouraged the Carroll County Tournament, scheduled for Oct. 8 at Westminster High.

While the four other schools (North Carroll, South Carroll, Liberty and Westminster) play in the Central Maryland Conference and face one another two times a season, Key is a member of the Monocacy Valley Athletic League and only had room on its schedule to play North Carroll once every year.

It was that one match for North Carroll that often decided the county championship. Key is never eligible for the county title. For it, Oct. 8 is the county championship.

"We're real excited about it. We've never had a shot at it," Totten said.

"All the county coaches have been real good about it. They just had to give up a dual meet and this year records mean absolutely nothing [to qualify for the region playoffs], so it isn't hurting anything. It will be fun to see how everyone does against each other."

The one setback is some of the teams won't come to the tournament with complete arsenals. South Carroll and North Carroll will be missing players because they will be taking SATs.

Defending county and CMC champ North Carroll has questions to answer, having lost four key players, including last year's Player of the Year Joy Huber, but it appears to have the talent and depth to again be considered the favorite.

South Carroll will look to build on its strong showing of a year ago -- an appearance in the region final -- and has a good start with returning seniors Melissa Gettemy and Nicole Spencer.

A tough MVAL schedule always has Francis Scott Key competitive and this season should be no different with a solid mix of returnees led by Maureen Ritcey and some promising newcomers.

Westminster is always tough, and Falls and Salafia-Crouse have brought with them a new enthusiasm to the program. They also have some solid talent back in seniors Beth Lister, Tara Dorsey and Carissa Cook.

Seasons like last year don't happen very often at Liberty. Look for a young Lions squad to play hard and improve as the season progresses.

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