No matter the limitations, York-Adams coaches and players happy to be playing volleyball
- The York-Adams League girls' volleyball season starts Thursday night.
- The state is recommending that indoor events be limited to 25 persons.
- Girls' volleyball teams following that limitation will have to take some unusual measures.
To play or not to play.
For weeks, even months, that was the question.
For York-Adams League girls' volleyball coaches and players, the answer was simple.
They wanted to play.
Starting Thursday night, they get their wish, even if the truncated season is starting more than two weeks later than originally scheduled.
While the feel may not exactly match that of normal high school volleyball matches, the opportunity to finally get on the court and play in meaningful matches is something that players and coaches alike are thankful for.
“We know that it is not going to look like a traditional season in the gym," said first-year West York coach Barb Fretz. “But the stuff that we need to do to make this happen is what we will do.”
Outlook looked bleak over the summer: For much of the summer, the prospect of playing a high school season in the fall seemed bleak, at best. After the spring high school season was almost completely canceled back in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, no one was taking a potential fall season for granted.
While the PIAA decided to eventually forge ahead with a fall season, the parameters of play will mark a clear difference between now and the past.
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For now, the state recommendation limiting school activities not related to educational instruction to no more than 25 people remains in effect. At this point, however, Gov. Tom Wolf has acknowledged that the limitation is voluntary while the matter plays out in the courts.
For a sport such as volleyball, that number is certainly limiting, to say the least, because that includes players, officials, scorekeepers and athletic trainers. Volleyball is the only major fall sport subject to the 25-person limit because it is the only major fall sport played indoors by the majority of York-Adams teams.
Impact of limitations: The impact of that limit is that assistant coaches and substitute players will have to watch from a different area during the game. Of course, that is assuming the schools continue to follow the state's voluntary recommendation. That situation is fluid and changes almost daily.
"For us, I know it’s going to be the players on the court, one coach and maybe two or three kids on the bench," Delone Catholic coach Jason Leppo said earlier this week. “So the rest of the kids, we’re using our weight room that is attached to the gym as well as our lobby area. I know that some schools, like Spring Grove and West York and Central, have a track area above the gym that is considered a separate space so there they might have some of the bench kids up there. Either way, it’s certainly going to be a little strange.”
Spectator situation: The limitations, if they are followed, also mean that parents of players, as well as fans of both schools, will not be allowed in the gym.
Of all the limitations, that may be the most noticeable of all. Even if some schools eventually allow some fans to attend, it's unlikely that packed gyms will be permitted in the near future.
"There’s nothing like being in a gym for like a district match or a state match where there are a thousand or more people," New Oxford coach Dwayne Warehime said. “So having none of that will be a lot different. Volleyball is a sport with energy and momentum and all that stuff and the fans in the stands help bring a lot of that excitement and energy out for the players.”
Scheduling changes: Volleyball is one of the handful of high school sports where a team can participate in multiple contests in one day. Tournaments and tri-matches are often a part of most school's schedules, but they will be missing this season.
For Y-A teams, that means that only games against divisional foes will be on the official slate. It also means no crossover contests and no weekend tournaments.
"We had two tri-matches, a couple of nonleague games and the tournament at Cumberland Valley that we had to cancel," said Fretz, who is taking over a Bulldog program that reached historic heights recently, including a 2018 PIAA Class 3-A state title season under former coach Joe Ramp.
Reduced officials: The limitations also mean that most contests may be played with less than the typical number of officials on the court. In volleyball, that number is typically four, with a head referee, a side judge and two line judges making the calls.
“That will have to be worked out,” Warehime said. “It could come down to having nobody on your bench, so you can have line judges. But I can’t imagine getting to districts or states and there not being independent line judges.”
The Y-A League has given the host school the responsibility to determine the 25-person limits, including the number of officials.
"We go to seven different schools,” Fretz said. “So there could be seven different procedures for how things are set up at each gym. Our numbers are working out where there will be 24 people in the gym on gamedays, so we’ll have the space for one sub to come in and be No. 25 and then the player leaving the court and go back out.”
The good news on that front is that the limitations are now voluntary. Schools, at least theoretically, could now exceed the limits, if they so choose. The limitations matter, however, is far from fully resolved.
“It’s a tough thing,” Warehime said. “I know that the parents and fans want to be there and I think there’s probably a way that will work where we can have at least 65 if not more in the gym safely.”
Different postseason: The postseason will also have a noticeably different feel this year. Gone for this season is the traditional Y-A League playoffs. The league playoffs had to be eliminated in order to get the District 3 postseason started on time.
Speaking of districts, the top two classifications (4-A and 3-A) will be allotted eight teams for the playoffs, while the two lower classes (2-A and 1-A) will only be afforded four teams.
Another big wrinkle is that only the district champions will qualify for the PIAA draw, which figures to be an eight-team bracket in all classifications.
Rankings: The Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association has come out with its 2020 state rankings.
At the moment, three Y-A teams are ranked. York Catholic is No. 5 in 2-A, while in 3-A, York Suburban is No. 7 and West York is No. 10. The state's top-ranked teams are North Allegheny in 4-A, Mount St. Joseph's in 3-A, (Pittsburgh) North Catholic in 2-A and Clarion in 1-A.
West York is the defending Y-A D-II champion. The other Y-A division champs last year were Central York in D-I and York Catholic and Delone Catholic, who tied for the D-III crown. Dallastown won the league playoff title.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.