By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, posted 7/29/08
The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) has announced the dates and sites for its first lacrosse state championship games, as well as the number of teams each district will qualify for the state tournament.
District 1 has been awarded seven teams for the 16-team field in both boys and girls. District 12 (the Catholic League) was awarded one team each for boys and girls.
The boys’ and girls’ state championship games in 2009 will be held Saturday, June 6, at Hersheypark Stadium.
The PIAA announced it would hold state tourneys in lacrosse in the spring after originally stating it would wait several years, until the overall number of PIAA teams increased for both boys and girls. The PIAA has sponsored girls’ lacrosse for many years, but had never held a state tourney; it will sponsor boys’ lacrosse next spring for the first time.
Mark Byers, the PIAA Assistant Executive Director, said the state tourney fields are determined solely by the number of teams in each district. District 1 received seven of the 16 berths because nearly half of the teams in the state – for both boys and girls – are located in District 1, he said.
There are 149 girls’ teams and 150 boys’ teams that have registered with the PIAA for the coming two-year period, 2008-10. Byers said that District 3 will get four berths in the PIAA tourney and that District 7 will receive three slots while District 11 will get one.
Byers also noted that districts that have one or two teams have to send their teams to neighboring district tournaments.
“It’s a proportional representation,” Byers said. “We take the total number of teams; divide by how many are in the district and then multiply that number by 16 in the district. The numbers are almost the same for the boys and the girls.”
Byers said “power ratings” or strength of schedule are not considered in determining how many state berths are awarded to each district.
The question of strength of teams within districts is a concern for lacrosse followers, especially in Philadelphia. Most followers consider Philadelphia to be a much stronger area for boys and girls than the central and western districts because of long-standing programs and the presence of powerful prep school teams.
For instance, boys’ 2008 state champion La Salle and St. Joseph’s Prep are perennial powers, but only one school from the district can advance to the PIAA tourney. The same situation will happen for the girls in District 12, which features eight-time Catholic League champion Archbishop Carroll and four-time runner-up Archbishop Wood.
“We do not seed brackets in any sport,” Byers said. “We believe this is the fairest way to accommodate the state-wide tournament.”
As was previously reported, this year’s tourneys will have only one classification: Class AAA. Byers said that the tourneys would include two classes only when the number of teams reaches 200.
Although there has been no state tourney for girls, the District 1 champions have been considered by most lacrosse followers to be the “mythical” state champions. Only one team was crowned champion until 1999 when the district split into Class AAA (larger schools) and Class AA.
The Catholic League is entering the PIAA this fall and its teams had not competed in the District 1 tournament.
A boys’ state tournament has been held by three regional state organizations; the Eastern, Central and Western Pennsylvania Scholastic Lacrosse Associations. In that tourney, every team in the state – including those from the Catholic League and the powerful Inter-Ac League – was eligible to participate for the Keystone Cup. The Inter-Ac teams cannot qualify for the PIAA tourney since the league is not a member of the PIAA.
Byers said that the PIAA will send teams that finished second in District 1 to the western brackets for the boys’ and girls’ tourneys.
“The champions and runner-up teams will be placed in opposite brackets and that will be done across the board,” he said. “This is done to prolong the time before champions and runner-up teams have to play each other.”
Byers also said that the PIAA considered three other hosts for the state title games: Penn State, Bucknell and the Hempfield School District.