Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - October 21, 2011

CCS playoffs will have a new format

by Keith Peters

The 2011 Central Coast Section girls' tennis playoffs will have a new look next month and local coaches are not happy about it.

Instead of playing the normal four singles, three doubles format, the section playoffs will feature three singles and three doubles in a round-robin format.

The Central Coast Section Board of Managers made that decision Wednesday morning at Oak Grove High in San Jose when they voted 26-14-4 in favor of the change. A proposal to delay the new format until next fall was struck down by a single vote.

"Wow," said Menlo coach Bill Shine, when informed of the news. "I heard it was going through, but . . . that changes everything! I have to start thinking about what I'm going to do."

With the regular season winding down for the girls, there is no time to start playing the three singles, three doubles format, not that the coaches would want to do that anyway.

"The first round of CCS could be everybody's first match (with the new format)," Shine said.

Castilleja Athletic Director Jez McIntosh, who attended the meeting, said the sentiment coming out of the league commissioners' meeting was that the leagues were against the new format.

The CCS Board of Managers, however, is made up of principals, vice-principals and league representatives — no public school athletic directors and no coaches.

"It's going to take effect immediately," McIntosh said of the ruling.

The new playoff format will only affect those teams competing in CCS. Menlo will be there and could be joined locally by Sacred Heart Prep, Menlo-Atherton and perhaps Palo Alto. The teams will continue in the 4-3 alignment until CCS, switch to the 3-3 and then return to the 4-3 for NorCals.

The new format reportedly has been pushed through by Salinas coach Bill Scott, a former tennis coach in Southern California where the 3-3 system is being used. With boys and girls tennis moving closer to a state championship, it was believed Northern California had to fall in line with its counterpart.

Shine, however, said he heard that the Southern California championship match will use the old 4-3 format.

"How ironic is that?" Shine said.

Shine's biggest gripe is how the measure was adopted.

"It's mind-boggling that they would make this decision without ever consulting the coaches," he said.

No coaches were allowed to attend the CC Board of Managers Meeting on Wednesday, even though Shine and some fellow coaches wanted to appear and speak in behalf of retaining the current 4-3 system.

"I was ready to go to the meeting today, but they said no," Shine said. "They probably already had made up their minds."

The CCS reportedly was responding to requests by coaches over the years that something needed to be done to prevent stacking, thus ruining the integrity of the sport.

The new format will have three singles players and three doubles teams from opposing squads playing one set against each other. The second matches can't start, of course, until others are finished.

"It's really dumb," Shine said. "And it's confusing to the kids. You gain nothing. You actually subtract, because you lose a player off your lineup."

Shine has four top singles players in junior Giannina Ong, sophomore Kristy Jorgensen, sophomore Christine Eliazo and freshman Liz Yao. At least one of those players now will have to play doubles after playing singles all season long.

Shine could put all three of his top singles players into doubles if he wants because the new system fosters stacking, where a coach can move a player to a position where it's most advantageous to the team.

The whole reason behind installing this new system, however, was to prevent stacking. Thus, nothing has been gained by Wednesday's vote.

"And you're not going to get our section ready for NorCals," Shine said. "It's a disadvantage for our section."

The CCS champion and runner-up both will advance to the CIF Northern California Championships, which feature the old four singles, three doubles format. The NorCal champ eventually will advance to a state championship match and play a format that perhaps no one knows at this point — certainly not if the SoCal finale is playing four singles and three doubles this season.

Shine said not only will the new playoff format take one player out of his current lineup, but that coaching during a match will be nearly non-existent if everyone is playing just one set.

The real coaching will be how one sets up his or her lineup, more of a chess match than anything else.

Shine, who also coaches the Menlo boys' team, will face similar problems in the spring.

"I'll be up the night before a match wondering what the other guy is going to do," Shine said. "All the other teams are in the same boat, but it just makes for crummy tennis."

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