Playoffs are open to all for soccer, volleyball

October 22, 1994|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Sun Staff Writer

As far back as 1978, Steve Malone had suggested that the state adopt an open playoff format for high school soccer. He even wrote up a proposal.

Nothing happened.

But 16 years later, Malone, who retired as boys soccer coach at North County after last season, has gotten his wish.

Every boys and girls soccer and volleyball team from public schools can enter the region tournament, regardless of their records.

And who they play will be determined by chance rather than by the traditional seedings, where the teams with the best records are given byes and home-field advantage.

A lottery-type drawing for boys and girls soccer will take place at 2 p.m. tomorrow at North County's auditorium. The volleyball drawing is scheduled for the following Sunday at Howard.

Not everyone is in favor of this method, but Malone, chairman of the state boys soccer committee and the tournament director, said, "It's more fair this way."

"The old system breeds mediocrity in scheduling," said Malone. "Before, if a small school was good, nobody would play them. This opens things up. It puts an entirely different tone on the regular season."

It also has given some coaches an entirely different reason to worry.

They don't approve of the notion that two teams with the best records could end up playing in the first round, while some weaker squads could sneak through the bracket and make it to the final. It's unfair, they say, and not a true representation of their region.

But Malone said, "If it's going to be open, it's got to be open."

"A lot of people say the playoffs are supposed to reward the best teams. Well, the idea is to be the best team at the end of the year," he said.

Malone also is in favor of the "double-blind" draw being used for soccer, where one machine will spew out pingpong balls with each school name written on them, while another will cough up numbers to determine where each team is seeded. Selections will be displayed on a large screen and later posted outside the auditorium.

Volleyball, by contrast, will use one machine, and the order in which the schools are drawn is how they will be seeded. But

Juanita Milani, the coach at No. 5 Glen Burnie and the Class 4A East Region chairwoman, said that could change if the soccer drawing proves more effective.

"This is all new to us, so I'm a little nervous," she said. "We could end up playing Northern of Calvert or Severna Park in the first round, and that's not good. But I talked to the state committee and they wanted to keep it a pure, open tournament. So, we'll have to see how it goes.

"It's not that I don't like it. It just makes me nervous."

Some teams won't have to play in the first round. There will be five byes, placed in the brackets before the drawings, in an 11-team region.

The soccer and volleyball drawings are open to the public. Keith Mills, sportscaster at WMAR-TV, will be tomorrow's master of ceremonies.

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