Hoping to strike gold, but knowing you'll only get lemons

Published9/14/2007 12:31 AM

Waiting for the Illinois High School Association to release its state tournament assignments is akin to pulling the lever of a slot machine. Deep down you know what's probably going to happen, but you hope against the odds for the best.

The girls volleyball assignments were released last week. Wheaton Warrenville South hit the biggest jackpot. Though it's not enough to make the Tigers rich, they won enough to have some fun for at least awhile.


WW South was moved from the pack of highly ranked teams in DuPage County that are annually unfairly grouped together in one sectional. Instead of heading south, the Tigers will head north to the Lake Park sectional. They're the best team there, though competitive squads such as St. Charles East, St. Charles North and rival Wheaton North will be looking to pull an upset.

From there the going should prove tougher for WW South or whatever team wins the Lake Park sectional. Rockton Hononegah, which placed second in state in 2006, Cary-Grove, Prairie Ridge or Crystal Lake South could be awaiting in the DeKalb supersectional.

The assignments brought little good news for the teams grouped together in the stacked Naperville North sectional -- except that they won't have to deal with WW South or St. Francis, which got bumped down to Class 3A in the newly created four-class system.

Close to half of the teams ranked in the Daily Herald's Top 20 are grouped together at Naperville North: No. 3 Benet, No. 4 Naperville Central, No. 7 Neuqua Valley, No. 8 Naperville North, No. 9 Downers Grove South, No. 12 Downers Grove North, No. 16 Waubonsie Valley and No. 19 Hinsdale South -- not to mention quality programs outside of DuPage County such as Plainfield North and Providence.

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Whatever team wins the survival-of-the-fittest test at Naperville North will pack its bags and drive to the Pekin supersectional to face the winner of the Normal Community sectional, which will contain the regional champs from Belleville East, Edwardsville, Minooka and Moline.

Schools such as Glenbard South, Montini and Wheaton Academy might tell you class expansion isn't doing anything for them. Sure, they no longer will face the biggest schools, but they're still grouped with defending state champion St. Francis in the Class 3A Riverside-Brookfield sectional.

If you're St. Francis, you have to be glad (unless you like facing the best competition regardless of class) that your sectional road is now exponentially easier being in Class 3A, but that's not going to guarantee another state championship. That's because the Spartans could face all-everything Kelly Murphy and her Joliet Catholic team in supersectionals. The great news for the Spartans is they would play that match on their home court as a supersectional host.

Class expansion has doubled the classes from two to four, dictated three matches will be crammed into one night in regionals and sectionals, turned supersectionals into what used to be the state quarterfinals, and ruled only the Final Four get to go to "state" and play at Illinois State's Redbird Arena.


One thing that hasn't changed is what could stand to the most.

"Our state tournament, which is misunderstood a lot of the times, is not designed to have the best teams at state," said Sue Hinrichsen, IHSA administrator of girls volleyball. "It's designed to have the best teams out of each geographic area."

What are the odds of that ever changing? You probably have a better chance of becoming a millionaire on a nickel slot machine.

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