High school volleyball playoffs undergo change

The revised playoff rules in high school volleyball appear to favor traditional powerhouses such as Marist, but War Eagles coach Anna Bush says she is taking a wait-and-see attitude.

Beginning this fall, volleyball's playoff format will undergo changes that make it more like the postseason tournaments for softball and soccer. The first two rounds will be played at the host site of the higher-seeded team, and the championship round will feature eight teams rather than four.

In past years, the volleyball playoffs started with four sectional tournaments per classification. Each sectional consisted of eight teams playing up to three matches on the same day at the same site, with one winner advancing to the "Final Four" championship rounds, with all matches at Marietta High School.

The new rules heavily favor Marist, which has played for state championships in two of the past three years, because it likely will play the first two playoff games at home.

"Yeah, but I have mixed feelings," Bush said. "In my opinion, volleyball doesn't have the same parity in Georgia as football or basketball. You're going to see some weaker teams have to travel such a far way for one match and then lose."

No matter how the Georgia High School Association sets up the area pairings for the playoff openers, some teams from Atlanta will be traveling to Savannah or Columbus, and vice versa. The long trips might cause budgetary and attendance concerns.

The good news is that teams no longer will have to play up to three best-of-five matches in one day. Also, the state's top teams are unlikely to play each other until later rounds.

"I think the intention of the rule is good," Wesleyan coach Ted Russell said. "I just wish the first two rounds would've been played at the same place on the same day. It will be very interesting to get the feedback after this year."

McEachern coach Patty Craven said the state's volleyball coaches association supported the new rules.

"All the [concerns] were discussed. The GHSA said 'We can't fix everything. Do you want to try it this way and see how it works?' We did, and I'm sure we'll discuss everything again after this year's playoffs to do whatever is best for the sport."