NIAA won’t realign next season, two playoff spots added in Div. I-A Northern League
For at least another year, the high school sports landscape in Northern Nevada will remain the same. The NIAA voted against division and league realignment at its May meeting, which means South Tahoe will have the same competition in Div. I-A Northern League during the 2015-16 school year.
“I like the league that we’re in — there’s parity in the league, and there’s also a bond that has been created over time,” South Tahoe athletic director Tony Sunzeri said. “I don’t think they have this anywhere else in the state, and it’s good to be a part of that.”
The Vikings will again face Dayton, Elko, Fallon, Fernley, Lowry, Sparks, Spring Creek and Truckee in all sports — and Wooster (Reno, Nev.) will likely join the league again for football. This grouping has remained unchanged since Div. I-A Northern League was formed three years ago, and as a result Sunzeri feels the league has begun to form an identity.
“We’ve been looked at a little differently — it’s almost like Div. I can just pluck us away at no harm,” Sunzeri said. “I’ve found that the athletic directors are willing to fight for it — we’ve all bonded and galvanized as a group of ADs and agree that we’re all in this together.”
In the south, a pair of changes was put in place for the 2016-17 school year. Div. I-A Southern League will be limited to 16 teams, and Faith Lutheran (Las Vegas) will move up to Div. I — the Crusaders won five Div. I-A state championships last season, and Sunzeri said programs similar to theirs might be better suited for a city championship within Las Vegas.
“There should be a power five or power eight division with big schools that have 3,000 kids or more — and including private schools like Bishop Gorman and Faith Lutheran that don’t have that many kids,” Sunzeri suggested. “We could put them all in one conference and just have a city championship instead of a state championship.”
Where Div. I-A Northern League will see changes next year is in the postseason. League schools voted 6-3 at the May meeting to add two playoff spots in all team sports for 2015-16, and Sunzeri said South Tahoe was one of the schools in favor of the expansion.
“It’s good to experience a playoff atmosphere — and we may not host these games, but it’s about getting them opportunities to really get some playoff experience as the fifth or sixth seed where they wouldn’t have otherwise,” Sunzeri said.
The format for the six-team regional playoffs will likely involve the top two seeds receiving a first-round bye except for in baseball and softball. Each spring sport would have a play-in round before beginning the four-team, double-elimination tournament currently in place.
Among the Vikings’ non-qualifiers last year, South Tahoe’s boys and girls basketball teams would have each earned a postseason berth under this new system. Sunzeri said transportation costs were the main issue for the schools that voted against the increased playoff field.
“The other three schools thought that it was a lot of travel and said it wasn’t really in their budgets — but they felt like they could afford it,” Sunzeri said. “Our district is really good about reserving money for playoffs for us, so they allowed us to pull the trigger and do it.”
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