Arissa Paulson Deserves Better From Section Coaches

More Than a Game

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Hands down, Arissa Paulson proved herself one of the best softball players in the state in any division. But she didn’t make the Division 3 All-Section 5 team? Really? What are these people smoking?

In yet another example of the absurdity of the Arizona Inter­scholastic Association’s online system for picking all-section and all-division teams, Payson’s standout sophomore ended up on the all-section second team in voting by coaches at aia365.com.

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Arissa Paulson was honored as a first-team Division 3 All-State player after producing eye-popping statistics that perhaps only her sister, Arianna, could match. But somehow wasn’t one of the 15 players voted first team all-section.

A bevy of players with mediocre stats made the all-section first team — but not the young player who helped propel the Longhorns to the state championship game. Unbelievable: Like refusing to list “The Terminator” a top 50 sci-fi flick, Abraham Lincoln as a top-10 president or Phoenix as a top-15 desert city. The first team has three pitchers, five infielders, four outfielders, a utility player, a designated hitter and a catcher — few with stats to match Arissa’s.

Instead, she ended up filling two slots on the 16-player second team — both utility and pitcher. That team features four catchers, three pitchers, four infielders, three outfielders, a utility player and a designated hitter.

Clearly, the coaches snubbed her for being a sophomore – since no underclassmen made the first team.

What a joke.

Payson won the section championship with an 8-0 record, went into the Division 3 Tournament as the No. 1 seed and played for a state title for the first time in program history. Yet in this upside down world, the Longhorns had just three players on the first team and four recognized in all.

Snowflake and Winslow both had four on the first team. Winslow also had two second-teamers for a total of six honorees and Snowflake one for a total of five.

We need to go back to having coaches actually drive to a meeting and haggle out the designations so they have to at least defend their vote. Under the current, scatterbrained system, coaches vote with no accountability.

The AIA’s switch to smaller sections this year was designed to make it easier for coaches to vote on all-section teams because, unlike recent years with large sections, it gave them a chance to see every other team in the section. That ought to give the coaches something to base their votes on if they don’t feel like spending a few seconds looking at the impressive stats.

Arissa played in all eight of those section games, dominating as a pitcher, working wonders as a shortstop and terrorizing pitchers at the plate. She played the key role in the stunning 2-0 win over Winslow, racking up the key RBI double that broke the scoreless tie, scoring an insurance run with heads-up baserunning, and pitching a three-hit shutout with 14 strikeouts. For the season, she struck out 109 batters in 55 innings, fashioning a microscopic 0.89 earned run average and went 9-1 in the circle, losing only in the state final. She batted .468 and led Payson with 12 home runs and 42 RBIs.

As if that’s not enough, she finished second to catcher Payton Peterson in fielding percentage playing at the shortstop, the most challenging position on the field, and pitcher. She committed just one error in 83 chances.

These stats blink on and off like neon when you go to maxpreps.com. Either the coaches can’t read stats or they didn’t bother looking despite Payson coach Kadi Tenney entering them by her name on the nomination page.

But wait: It gets even more bizarre.

Arissa, a first-team all-section honoree as a freshman who only got better this season, and her sister both made First-Team Division 3 All-State.

Really? She can’t make first team for the section, but she makes first team for the state?

I rest my case: The system’s broke.

If nothing else, let’s give the section-winning teams extra slots — like they did in the good old days.

And while I’m all riled up, I’m also aghast that the coaches snubbed Tenney, a rookie head coach whose team played for a state championship. None of the eight coaches in the section nominated her for section Coach of the Year, making her ineligible for the division honor.

So, take heart Arissa. You’re not alone.

But you — and Kadi — made first team in all our hearts.

Way to go.

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