Volleyball Moves To Best-Of-3 Format

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The Arizona Interscholastic Association Legislative Council and school athletic directors have voted overwhelmingly to return high school volleyball to the old best-of-three match formats.

Arizona is one of only a handful of states that will use that format.

Last year, the AIA changed its rules to a best-of-five match format with rally scoring in which points are scored on every serve. That format proved to be very popular among the players and coaches mostly because it gave the athletes more opportunities to play.

This year, the matches are best-of-three and the rally scoring will continue. That means the matches could be done in as little as 40 minutes and players could end an evening without breaking a sweat.

According to PHS athletic director Dave Bradley, the legislative council apparently returned to the old format because some thought best-of-five was too time consuming and costly.

An argument Bradley overheard was that on Tuesday away games, players were returning home too late in the evening.

The legislative council decision to return to the old format has created quite a controversy among athletic directors, coaches and players.

Among those opposed to returning to the two-of-three format is former Lady Longhorn coach Chris Schwind. She has coached teams that played under both systems.

The best-of-five system, she points out, better illustrates which team is the better because they have more opportunities to put their skills to the test.

In best of-three, if a team makes a few crucial errors at the wrong time, the match could be over very quickly.

Because players are on the court longer in the best-of-five format, they also have to be in better physical condition and have more endurance. Physical fitness is one of the reasons for playing the sport, Schwind said.

Also in the best-of-five format, coaches have more chances to get their reserves into the game. In best-of-three, second-team players will have fewer opportunities to see action.

Schwind also believes that athletes going on to play in college will be at a disadvantage because the best-of-five system in used on the collegiate level.

Last year under Schwind, Payson upset Flagstaff in five games and in the season finale took Grand Canyon region champion Coconino to five before losing. In those matches, Schwind contends, the Lady Horns had more opportunities to get untracked because they were on the court longer.

"If you only play two games, you better not make a mistake," she said.

When Payson played in the best-of-three system, varsity games began at 6:30 p.m. In the best-of-five format last year, the start time of varsity games was moved up to 6 p.m. That means, the legislative council's argument that game's were played too late into the evening was invalid. The extra 30 minutes more than made up for longer matches.

"There were times after home games that I was home at 8:30 p.m." Schwind said.

Although most players and coaches are opposed to the best-of-three format, the legislative council's decision has mandated it for this season.

The best opponents can hope for is a rule change can be made next season to return to the best-of-five system.

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