The region’s sports directors, MIAA, vote online on the new state tournament format


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The return to the tournament game in autumn was received with enthusiasm – and with changes. But change wasn’t required to participate.

A year after the sport was either changed or postponed to late winter and the postseason abolished, this time the playoffs have changed. The most notable changes related to the seeding, the absence of sectional tournaments and a new ticket buying process for the return to a full fall season that ends on Friday with the final two state championship soccer games at Gillette Stadium.

Power rankings were used to determine playoff seeds – rather than team records – and sections were replaced with a “real” state tournament format where schools competed against opponents from all corners of Massachusetts from the start – in some cases literally – from the beginning.

Buying tickets online, the only way to buy them in most locations, was the biggest variance for viewers.

The Needham student body cheered their team on in a playoff game against Concord-Carlisle on November 13, 2021.

The athletic directors who responded to inquiries about this story – as well as the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association – reported mostly positive feedback on the many changes, with most of the difficulties related to technology.

“I think there have been growing pains but it’ll only get better when we learn more,” said Acton-Boxborough AD Steve Martin. “I think it was successful for the first time.”

“I felt like the best teams were able to go deeper into the tournament,” said Mike Jackson, a freshman from Newton North who reached two teams (volleyball, boys’ soccer) on the same day of championship games.

Newton North junior Harrison Georgiadis passed the ball to a teammate before Concord-Carlisle's Daniel Jaffe got on on November 17, 2021.

“The feedback has been positive,” said MIAA’s Tara Bennett. “We had some issues with some of the new parts – the online ticketing and some travel due to the new format. It’s just a question of change. ”

Concord-Carlisle had two teams in the bottom four (field hockey, boys’ soccer), another in the elite eight (girls’ volleyball) and another in the last sixteen (girls’ soccer). Many of these games were at home because the Patriots ranked high in the rankings of state power.

The MIAA provided the rankings for each sport on a weekly basis, which were quickly shared on social media. And because there were no more sections, many higher-ranking teams played at home up to neutral semi-finals of the states.

“It makes the regular season more meaningful because your goal now can be to host as many potential home games as possible,” said Concord-Carlisle AD Aaron Joncas. “The couple of weeks we’ve been hosting these games, it’s been fun. The enthusiasm in school during the day, it brings out children in youth programs and families – especially where everything has been turned upside down with COVID; Everyone could visit and enjoy all the games – that was a really great experience for me. ”

Concord Carlisle student Julia Lambert controlled the ball when she was shadowed by Walpole's Caitlyn Naughton on November 16, 2021.

A major disadvantage of a “real” state tournament was travel. For Divisions 1 and 2 – where most of the schools are in the eastern part of the state – distance was not an issue.

But there were exceptions: Falmouth Academy played Pathfinder Regional (Palmer) in a round of 32 Division 5 boys’ football game (131 miles each way); or Franklin County and Westport (138 miles each way) in Division 4 first round field hockey; or the longest distance (210 miles each way, including an overnight stay in Hyannis and a ferry ride) that Monument Mountain in Great Barrington had to endure to play Nantucket in a D4 round-of-32 match.

“It’s part of the national tournament,” said Bennett. “I know people have expressed concern about it. But the feedback we got from schools involved in this long journey has been positive. They said it was a great experience for their kids. They have seen parts of the state that they normally would not be able to see. ”

Bay State anywhere in states

With all of the opportunities a national tournament offered, the Division 1 playoffs were a showcase for the Bay State Conference. BSC teams met in the boys’ national championship (Brookline defeated Newton North) and the girls’ volleyball title game (Needham defeated Newton North), while Natick won his first national championship in girls’ soccer.

More:Well worth repeating: Needham High girls volleyball wins another state championship

Walpole, also from Bay State, reached the field hockey finals. In a section tournament, some of these teams may never have made it to the state semi-finals.

Newton-North's Abigail Wright (13) plays the net against Needhams Kaitlyn Wong (18) during the Division 1 State Championship game at Wellesley High, November 20, 2021.

“We had to play in the South Sectional, which was really the strongest of the four for so many sports,” said Needham High AD Dan Lee. “Crossing the South Sectional would be very exhausting and very exhausting.”

“In the past,” said Jackson of Newton North, “especially at the Bay State Conference, teams would beat each other up early in the tournament.”

Ups and downs in online ticketing

The MIAA introduced another new aspect into the playoffs and restricted ticket purchases to online only.

Going cashless is a growing trend and has been inevitable, especially as COVID-19 is still a problem. But it wasn’t the only consideration.

“To improve efficiency and safety on several levels,” said Bennett. “One of them doesn’t have all the cash on hand. What used to happen to paper tickets, people got their tickets and they all had to be accountable and have those checks and balances. Going online will save you a lot of time. It also enabled (schools) to better plan and prepare their tournament games.

“It was easy at the gate. You haven’t seen many lines. ”

“It went better than expected,” said Joncas. “I understand why the MIAA changed the ticket process. If you go to Boston Garden or Fenway Park, you no longer hand over a paper ticket. I think it went more smoothly than many of us expected because it was unknown and we weren’t familiar with it. ”

But the technology wasn’t always consistent.

In Newton North, where Wi-Fi and cellular service are poor, Jackson said employees “pressed the panic button” at a volleyball game when viewers had difficulty scanning the QR code on their phone after purchasing tickets earlier GoFan app.

Camilla Menozzi of Newton North serves during her championship volleyball game against Needham at Wellesley High.

North was able to collect and collect money that night, but the problem still persists.

“There was a problem with indoor events here because we have really bad cellular service here and sometimes the internet is shoddy and sometimes we couldn’t redeem tickets on site,” said Jackson. “I worry about basketball and other sports in winter; If we have problems like this, that won’t change. People can still buy their tickets in advance, but you’ll still need cellular or WiFi to redeem the ticket on-site. That worries us a bit. ”

Pat Rivero Gonzalez, the AD at Newton South, shared the same concern.

Although the process is more convenient and safer because no money is processed, “accommodation must be created for people who do not have access to cell phones or their own credit cards. The MIAA has recognized the problem of making cash tickets possible for the lower classes.” ”

Rivero Gonzalez said tickets to South’s girls’ soccer Final Four playoff game against Hingham were purchased in bulk from an anonymous fan who bought them online.

Otherwise, according to Bennett, the process went smoothly.

“The feedback from people who have used it was, ‘Oh my god, this is so simple, it was so efficient.’ We know of a handful of schools that have now switched entirely to online ticketing, ”she said. “Change can be hard, but at the end of the day the excitement for the kids was evident and that’s what it’s all about.”

Free tires at CC

After an autumn of playoff games – at home and away – Concord-Carlisle is giving fans’ purses a break. The school normally charges spectators for regular season basketball games, but not this season.

Between soccer, field hockey and volleyball, the Patriots played in 13 tournament games. At $ 10 per game, the costs can add up quickly. Throw in a weekly soccer game and the total will only grow.

“I just feel like the regular season income from ticket sales isn’t an essential component of keeping our programs running,” Joncas said, “when the tradeoff is getting more kids to play can … the kids come up to a game on a Friday night, they are in a supervised environment, they do something that is school-appropriate, it’s fun, we know where they are, they can be with their friends and their teammates support.

“It’s all part of what makes high school sport so enjoyable.”

Follow Tim Dumas on Twitter: @TimDumas.

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