NIAA meetings lead to decision on girls soccer
June 30, 2011
RENO – Of every high school sport contested statewide, only one has not had a true state championship tournament to date.
Not so any more.
Starting in the fall of 2012, the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association will begin conducting a statewide girls’ soccer tournament after years of positioning and legal wrangling.
At the NIAA Board of Control meeting last week, the Clark County School District announced it would move its girls’ soccer season to the fall.
It was a surprise move as the NIAA has voted three times in the past to unify the seasons for a single state tournament.
Currently, the Northern 4A and statewide 3A classifications (as with all levels of college soccer) play their seasons out in the fall. Clark County, which comprises the majority of the Southern 4A, has always competed in the winter.
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The latest attempt to unify the regions came prior to the 2008 season, but a Green Valley High School parent filed suit saying that moving the Southern 4A season would be a Title IX violation as it took away opportunities for Southern Nevada athletes who played both volleyball and soccer.
“The season was going to move, but it was thwarted by a parent,” NIAA assistant director Donnie Nelson said. “At that point the NIAA didn’t have any money to fight that battle.”
In 2009, a pair of Southern 3A schools – Pahrump Valley and Faith Lutheran – made the jump to 4A in all sports, which caused problems for their girls’ soccer programs, which had always played in the fall.
Neither school was part of the Clark County School District and the girls’ soccer teams were left without a league to play in.
“We couldn’t punish Faith Lutheran or Pahrump for not being part of Clark County,” NIAA assistant director Jay Beesemeyer said at the time. “They made the jump up and wanted to play in the fall. We couldn’t exclude them.”
So, in an effort to help facilitate the eventual move of the entire Southern 4A to the fall, the NIAA established the Nevada 4A State Tournament in the fall, including the winner of the Pahrump-Faith Lutheran as the Southern Nevada representative, and and left the winter tournament as the Southern 4A State Tournament.
Last week, though, Clark County representatives told the NIAA of their intentions. With moving girls’ soccer, they’d add an additional winter sport, likely flag football or lacrosse.
Nelson said Clark County’s first option was cheer/spirit, but the sport is not considered in Title IX numbers at any level including the NCAA. The district’s second option is flag football and third is lacrosse.
As far as having a true state tournament, Douglas High soccer coach Lorraine Fitzhugh, who has guided the Lady Tigers to the last two state titles, said she couldn’t be more thrilled.
“It’s better for everyone involved,” Fitzhugh said. “It’s something we always hoped would happen but never really believed it would.
“I like a higher level of competition, and with the schools down there getting to play year-round, you have to believe it’s going to be a very high standard of soccer. It’ll be neat to see what happens with that.”
In order to prepare for the step up, Fitzhugh said she hopes some non-conference tournaments including both Northern and Southern teams could be arranged in the next several years.
“I think in order for the teams up here to get a taste of what the competition will be like, it’s necessary to try to get down there or get them up here for some games,” she said. “There are high-level players down there. There’s going to be budget constraints that we’ll have to work through, but overall it’s a really good thing for girls’ soccer in the state.”
Green Valley is the reigning Southern 4A champ while perennial powers include Centennial, Bishop Gorman, Coronado, Arbor View, Clark, Rancho and Las Vegas.
“Any time you can raise the bar in your league, it forces everyone to step up,” Fitzhugh said. “I’m curious to see how we’ll fare. I know the girls’ – our juniors and underclassmen – will be very excited about this.
“We’ve all been waiting. I thought it would take a decade. It’s really good news for our sport.”
— Steve Puterski contributed to this report
In 2001, the NIAA began recognizing seperate state champions for Northern and Southern Nevada. Previously, the season champions had been designated as “regional champions.”
2011: Green Valley
2010: Arbor View
2006: Palo Verde
2001: Bishop Gorman
* – In 2009 the NIAA began naming the fall champion the “Nevada 4A State Champion” with the inclusion of Southern schools Pahrump Valley and Faith Lutheran in the fall schedule. The champion of the winter season, or Clark County School District’s season, remained the “Southern 4A State Champions.”