Volleyball fans were caught a bit off guard early this season when they learned matches were lasting much longer than the past two seasons.
The longer matches are a result of the Arizona Interscholastic Association doing away with the two-of-three format in favor of three-of-five.
Prior to the change, Arizona was one of a few states still using the best-of-three format.
Matches that now go to the full five games can extend for an hour or more. In the old format, matches could end in about 35 minutes.
A Sept. 5 match in Wilson Dome that pitted the Longhorns against Estrella Foothills continued for two hours because it went five games and three of those had to be decided in overtime.
Coaches, including Payson's Arnold Stonebrink, contend the best-of-five format better prepares those athletes who are going on to college because that is the format used on that level.
"Against Estrella, Tori Wilbanks had 67 spikes and she had 75 against Holbrook," Stonebrink said. "All those reps will make her a better hitter and will also make her much more valuable as a college prospect."
Also in the best-of-five format, if a team starts slow it has time to regroup and get into a rhythm.
The new format also allows coaches more times to get their reserves into the games.
"In the best of two out of three, I never felt comfortable enough to play the substitutes the second game when leading 1-0," Stonebrink said. "Whereas leading 2-0 I feel much more comfortable playing them."
The coach leaves little doubt he is among the vast majority of high school coaches who applaud the change.
"I love the best-of-five format," Stonebrink said. "I know it means the match will end later, which means getting home later during road trips.
"But I think that negative is negated by the positives."
In 2003, the AIA's decision to reduce high school volleyball games from the best of five formats, then being used, to best of three drew objections from most of the state's coaches.
The change mandated a best-of-three series where each game is played to 25 points using the rally scoring system. In the five-game format, the first four sets were played to 25, with the fifth capped at 15.
Both systems require that each game be won by at least two points.
The main complaint was that the best-of-three format meant less playing time for the athletes and less time for the athletes to develop their skills.
Since 2003, coaches have lobbied the AIA to return to the best-of-five-format.
Last spring, they were successful.