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CIF splits water polo into three playoff divisions

The CIF San Diego Section’s Board of Managers approved a proposal to split boys water polo and girls water polo into three divisions for playoff purposes.

The Board of Managers vote June 8 had no opposition. “There was a need to break it up,” said CIF commissioner Dennis Ackerman. “It will help the teams in the middle.”

The high school water polo community expressed the sentiment that an additional division would benefit the sport by providing more student-athletes opportunities to compete at higher levels. The playoffs for both boys and girls have consisted of 16 teams in Division I and 16 teams in Division II; the new format will have 12 teams in each division with the top four teams receiving first-round byes.

“I think it will be good for the sport,” said Bob Lamont, the head coach of both the boys and girls teams at Fallbrook High School. “This will create a new middle division.”

During the fall 2009 season 58 schools fielded boys water polo teams, and during the winter 2009-10 season 54 girls water polo teams’ competed. Del Norte High School, which opened in 2009, will have juniors for 2010-11 and plans to field varsity water polo teams for the upcoming seasons. The three divisions would be divided as equally as possible based on total school enrollment (which is doubled for single-gender schools to determine divisions, although Army-Navy will still be in Division III and St. Augustine, Our Lady of Peace, and Southern California Yeshiva do not play water polo).

“It will open a whole center section that’s uncharted,” Lamont said.

Although the total number of teams reaching the playoffs is only increased from 32 to 36, the number of teams in second-round matches will increase from 16 to 24. “People feel like they have a better opportunity to play,” said Donnie Williams, who coaches both the boys and girls programs for Ramona High School. “That just means more time and experience at the CIF level.”

Fallbrook and Ramona both play their home matches in shallow-deep pools which do not meet CIF standards for playoff games, so neither the Warriors nor the Bulldogs will host any first-round games. Ironically, the four top-seeded teams which earn byes will also give up first-round home games, as all games from the quarterfinals through the championship matches will still be played at common sites such as La Jolla High School’s Coggan Pool. The fifth-seeded through eighth-seeded teams will have home matches in the first round if they have qualifying pools.

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