Boys tennis does it right.
Two decades ago while serving in an unofficial capacity on the boys tennis advisory committee, I sat in as coaches from throughout the state met in Bloomington to seed the boys state tennis tournament.
Each year, I would chart the state tournament to see how well the committee did. With few exceptions, the committee accurately seeded the tournament and the top singles and doubles seeds that would advance to the quarterfinals.
The idea was to provide the best state tournament possible and to assure that the top singles players and doubles teams had the best possible chance to reach the finals. The tennis committee continues to do that today.
So why not other sports?
Why shouldn’t the final eight teams in basketball, or now with class expansion, at least the final four teams that advance to state, be re-seeded so that the best teams meet in the finals? Why not re-seed in football? Or any sport for that matter?
Why not seed the final eight teams in boys volleyball so that the two best teams have the best possible chance of meeting in the finals?
The Illinois High School Association will never budge off its stance of “geographic representation,” so we are stuck with sectionals aligned the way they currently are. But why cannot it not allow other sports, besides tennis, to seed the quarterfinals so that the best teams meet in the finals?
This year, if the top sectional seeds advance to the boys volleyball quarterfinals, the final eight pairings would look like this: Neuqua Valley vs. Oak Park, Wheaton Warrenville South vs. Morton, Maine South vs. Buffalo Grove, and Sandburg vs. Lake Park.
The semifinals would pit Neuqua Valley vs. Wheaton Warrenville South and Maine South vs. Sandburg.
Maine South has clearly established itself as the best team in the state, completing an unblemished regular season, and rates a slight edge as favorite over Sandburg, which has not lost since the first weekend of the season.
Yet those two teams would meet in a semifinal.
Three-time defending state champion Wheaton Warrenville South, on the other hand, would seem to have clear path to the finals, as none of the other three potential quarterfinalists in its half of the bracket are ranked among the top 10 in the state.
Why cannot a group of sober, clear-thinking coaches, officials or members of the volleyball advisory committee be allowed to sit down and clearly and rationally seed the volleyball finalists Nos. 1-8?
My seeded quarterfinals would look something like this: No. 1 Maine South vs. No. 8 Morton, 4 Buffalo Grove vs. No. 5 Neuqua Valley, No. 2 Sandburg vs. No. 7 Oak Park, and No. 3 Wheaton Warrenville South vs. No. 6 Lake Park.
Your potential semifinals would pit Maine South vs. Buffalo Grove and Sandburg vs. WW South. Maine South and Sandburg would be afforded the opportunity to meet in the state championship match.
Instead, Maine South must defeat Buffalo Grove and Sandburg just to get to the finals. Meanwhile, either Neuqua Valley or Oak Park are guaranteed a state finals trophy just for winning their respective sectionals.
I am not saying that there cannot be upsets. I also mean no disrespect to the teams not seeded in the top four. I am just saying that the quarterfinal pairings should not be based on an arbitrary system known as the “rolling of the peas.”
Let’s give boys volleyball, and other sports such as basketball, football, baseball and soccer the same opportunity that tennis has been given.
The tennis committee usually gets it right and provides year in and year out what I consider one of the premier events in state finals history.
Why doesn’t everybody else deserve the same opportunity?