When the District 11 Volleyball Championships roll around in a few weeks, there will be a new playoff format being incorporated.
Gone are the days of the marathon "pool play" matches that went from early morning until late afternoon on the opening Saturday of Districts. Teams would play anywhere from three to five matches in pool play with the top teams advancing to the semifinal round a few days later.
This year, the district has decided to change to a single elimination tournament. All three classes (A, AA, AAA) will play quarterfinal round, semifinal round and championship matches. Just like regular season matches, they will be a best-of-five game format.
It was somewhat of a rhetorical question to seasoned Marian coach John "Doc" Fallabel on why "Pool Play" was put to rest and why a "single elimination tournament" was put into effect.
"Do you want to know the reason why ... it's economics," Fallabel said. "The PIAA found out that the less Pool Play they have, the more money they can make.
"Plus, there has been a push from some coaches that we should eliminate pool play all together."
Well, in the near future, the district will find out if the move was a good one.
For now, they'll have to wait and see.
It won't be the first time Pleasant Valley coach John Gesiskie, who's program has made the tournament every year since 1999, has dealt with change in the district playoff format over his 18 years of coaching the game of volleyball. So, he's "alright" with the motion regardless of the circumstances.
"I'm all right with the one and done," Gesiskie said.
However, Gesiskie feels there might be some others who might not be.
"The better schools might have something else to say about it though," Gesiskie said. "With our district, only one team gets to go (on to States) for District 11 at AAA and we almost always have three teams in the top-10 in Pennsylvania.
"I guess their thing is like they should at least have a second chance to get that one chance to go to the state playoffs. That's the only thing I can see that we have that much high caliber volleyball in the Lehigh Valley. They want to be able to have a second chance to be able to go on in the playoffs without the single elimination."
It will be just like other high school sports, in which the majority run "single elimination" tournaments already.
"I'm happy that it's going this way because this is what volleyball is – you go out and beat the team (to become the best team yourself)," Fallabel added.
The top eight teams from each classification throughout the district will earn the right to play in the tournament depending on their classification in school size - whether it's Class A, Class AA or Class AAA.
If there are more than eight teams qualified (with .500 records), pig-tail games will be played to decide on which teams earn that chance to move on in postseason play.
While both Pleasant Valley and Marian have been mainstays over the years in the district playoffs, each team will go about its own way in preparing for the change.
"It's a welcome change," Fallabel said. "If you think about it, it's different."
The seasoned Fillies' mentor went on to explain that each team owns its destiny - just like past teams of his own have handled any kind of format.
"When we were State Champions, the double elimination worked for us," said Fallabel, who won a State title in 2003 with his program. "We were in the winner's bracket and we beat Nativity early and they beat us late. And, then we beat them real late – it was almost midnight that night. And that was in double elimination bracket play.
"Then in pool play out at states, we were beat by Farrell the night before. We were swept by them in Pool Play. But we were already assured a place in the next day. I played them down. I just left them play, which was the day Farrell rolled all over us. The next day we beat them in the State Championships. We had two losses that year, so what would we have done against Farrell if we had had to face them head on the first time in a best of five series. Would have it had been difference? I don't know."
Is it the right move? I don't know. I'm happy though."
Whether it was the right move or not, one thing will always stay the same with Gesiskie. He won't change the way he prepares his team for each and every district tournament it qualifies for.
"I've always prepared them for one game at a time," Gesiskie said. "We have to go in and play this first team and we have to do the best we can to win it and then worry about the next team later. That's always been my mentality. Sometime people overlook what's there in front of them.
"Like last year, we shocked Parkland because they thought they were going to take three away from us. They did, but they had to put all their starters in because we were leading. It was getting into the 20's and he wanted to finish with a perfect record. It's a who shows up kind of thing. We tell the girls every game we can win any time we play the best we can."
Right now, both programs hold unblemished conference play records and will take on the competition within their leagues before they event step foot on the court for districts.
TITLE TOWN ..... Last week, the Northwestern girls cross country team staked claim on another Colonial League Championship.
The Lady Tigers were able to cap the regular season with an undefeated league mark of 26-0 to earn the program's fifth league title.
The Lady Tigers now have won the CL title outright three times - '05, '09 and this season - while were co-champions in 2006 and 2008.
KILL-ER INSTINCT ..... Over the last three years, Marian's Marykate Sherkness made her presence known at the volleyball net.
Last week, the junior put herself in the program's history book by attaining her 1,000 career kill in a 25-12, 25-23, 25-13 Schuylkill League victory over Shenandoah Valley. In the win, Sherkness recorded 19 kills to surpass the mark.
ALL IT TOOK WAS A SINGLE HALF ..... Late last week, Tamaqua's Kayla Hope only needed 40 minutes to scored a hat-trick in a 6-1 Schuylkill League win over Pine Grove.
In the second half against the Cardinals, her Blue Raider teammate Kailee Rottet fell short of doing the same as she finished with two goals in the victory.
KEEP ON DIGGIN' ..... Throughout the season, Alicia Panzarella has covered her grounds on the volleyball court for the Weatherly girls' volleyball team.
Last week in a setback to Pius X, Panzarella did her best to keep her team within a victory by averaging nearly 10 kills per game. The senior Wrecker finished the four-set setback to the Royals with an amazing 40 digs on the night. A few days earlier in a straight set loss to Mahanoy Area, Panzarella attained the same average with 30 more digs.
UNTOUCHED IN LEAGUE PLAY ..... The Pleasant Valley and Marian girls' volleyball teams finished their regular season league schedule in style.
The Bears capped their Mountain Valley Conference schedule off by scoring a perfect 10-0 record in conference play. Meanwhile, the Fillies handled every Schuylkill League opponent they faced this season and did the same. However, in the process, the Fillies earned themselves their second consecutive Schuylkill League Division 4 title with an undefeated 12-0 mark in SL play.