Planning to see Downers North’s Greg Petty play in the state finals at Hoffman Estates this season?
You might want to make other plans.
Want to catch Providence’s uber-exuberant 6-foot-9 junior Marty Ross?
You probably won’t see him at Hoffman Estates, either.
There’s a good chance won’t see Naperville North’s Ball State-bound outside hitter Shane Witmer or Downers South’s outstanding middle Sam Kull or Lincoln-Way East’s Royer brothers or a number of other talented players whose teams are worthy of Elite Eight status at Hoffman Estates.
The IHSA’s dreaded geographical-driven sectional assignments – in a sport played almost exclusively in the Chicago area.
“The state is a joke,” said Marist coach Bob St. Leger, who led the RedHawks to the state title in 2010 after negotiating a minefield sectional that featured 30-game winners Sandburg, Lincoln-Way Central and Providence.
“The way they put teams in sectionals is laughable,” he said.
Based on the latest Sun-Times rankings, the (Aurora) Illinois Math and Science Academy sectional has more top 20 teams than any other field (five). The Sandburg and Warren sectionals feature four top 20 teams.
The other five sectionals – Schaumburg (three), Niles North (two), St. Ignatius and Belleville West (one) and Reavis (zero) — have a combined six top 20 teams among them.
The state also continues to shuffle sectional lineups to create even greater imbalance. For example, Lyons, which previously had been grouped with the St. Ignatius field, is now lumped with the IMSA field. Brother Rice, a former member of the Reavis field, now goes to Sandburg.
And this is not a one-year problem. This is an ongoing situation in boys volleyball that penalizes the more successful programs at the expense of programs that are rewarded not for their prowess, but for where they land when the IHSA stretches a rubberband.
That imbalance does create a more manageable match-up for the team lucky enough to survive its talent-heavy sectional and draw one of the lesser-blessed sectional winners in a state quarterfinal.
But that is of little consolation to those teams and players unlucky enough to be guaranteed a seat in the bleachers at Hoffman Estates not because they aren’t good enough, but because they have the wrong address.
At least they will be in good company.
Defending state champion Marist suffered a huge blow to its hopes of making a title defense when 6-foot-4 middle Jim Mead suffered what is believed to be a torn ACL in his right knee recently.
Test results are not complete and Mead and the Marist coaches plan to seek a second opinion, but according to coach Bob St. Leger, “it does not look good.”
“He plans to see another doctor,” St. Leger said. “He is walking and moving well. He tells me he should be playing, We’ll see what happens.
“We were playing so well at Brother Rice,” the coach added. “This stuff happens.”
Marist was able to win its pool at Lincoln-Way East last weekend without Mead, but the RedHawks were beaten by Naperville North (26-24, 25-14) and Maine South (25-20, 25-19) on Saturday before winning their finale 25-18, 26-24 over Warren for seventh place.
Lincoln Park is the top seed in the Chicago Public League Athletic Association City Championship Tournament that begins Tuesday with 16 first-round matches. Lane Tech is seeded No. 2, followed by Northside College Prep and Payton.
The quarterfinals will be held Monday, May 15 at 4:00 and 5:00 p.m. at Brooks and Northside, with Wednesday’s semifinals at 4:00 and 5:00 p.m. at Senn.
The championship match will be played at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, May 20 at UIC’s gymnasium on Roosevelt Road.