Districts more relevant in new VHSL postseason formats

WINCHESTER — Postseason importance has returned to Northwestern District and Bull Run District competition.
While the Virginia High School League touted a potential “all-in” region tournament format when it voted to eliminate conferences last year, the organization did allow each of the 24 regions (six classifications of four regions each) to decide how to organize their postseason tournaments and meets.
Class 4, Region C (which includes Handley, James Wood, Millbrook and Sherando and is made up of seven Northwestern District schools and seven Dulles District schools) and Class 2, Region B (which includes Clarke County and is made up of five Bull Run District schools and seven Shenandoah District schools) have both elected to not let all of its members automatically qualify for region competition.
Those regions decided to make their schools earn their way into the region tournament.
That means for the Northwestern and Bull Run districts, every time one of their schools plays a district game against a school in a similar classification in the regular season, it will impact their seeding for the district tournament that starts the postseason.
In that respect, things are going to be similar to the way they were before the conference era began in 2013-14.
In the new format, in sports other than football, the top two teams from the Northwestern District and Dulles District will qualify for the Class 4, Region C tournament.
In the team sports of basketball, baseball, soccer, softball, tennis and volleyball, every team in the Northwestern District will play each other twice — once at home, once on the road — and the standings from the results of those games will determine postseason seeding. The regular season champion will earn an automatic berth into the region tournament, as well as the district tournament champion (or the district tournament runner-up if the district regular season champion won the district tournament). The tournament champion will get the higher region seed of the two qualifiers.
The Northwestern District now has 13 schools — Class 4 schools Handley, James Wood, Millbrook, Sherando, Fauquier, Kettle Run and Liberty, and Class 3 schools Brentsville, Culpeper, Manassas Park, William Monroe, Skyline and Warren County. Games against schools that are not in your classification will not count toward the district standings in any sport.
James Wood coordinator of student activities Craig Woshner said the “all-in” region tournament format didn’t have much appeal with Class 4, Region C athletic directors.
“There’s something that gets missed when you have an all-in tournament,” Woshner said. “We feel as ADs, [appearing in the region tournament] is something that is earned.
“When you go to regionals, and you’re automatically in, it really doesn’t mean anything. Teams haven’t earned any kind of advancement. Especially as big as our district is, we felt we could go back to the advancement kind of like we did prior to the conference change. We think it’s going to work out really well, the way we’ve got it set up.”
Millbrook CSA Scott Mankins said there were a lot of discussions about using an all-in format in Class 4, Region C, and the region ADs even came up with a bracket playoff system for that format.
“There’s pluses and minuses to each way, but I’m satisfied with the way that we’ve come up with,” Mankins said.
The top four Class 2, Region B teams (which will be known as Region 2B) from the Bull Run District and Shenandoah District will make the region tournament. The other schools from the Bull Run District that are in Class 2 are Central, George Mason, Madison County and Strasburg.
Just like the Northwestern District, in the team sports of basketball, baseball, soccer, softball, tennis and volleyball, every team in the Bull Run District will play each other twice — once at home, once on the road — and the standings from the results of those games will determine postseason seeding.
Rappahannock County is another member of the Bull Run District. The Panthers will compete in Class 1 at the regional and state level for all sports except girls’ soccer, a sport in which Class 2 and 1 are combined.
Rappahannock County will compete in the Bull Run District postseason tournaments and meets for all sports in which it sponsors teams though.
In team sports, the four tournament semifinalists will make the region tournament if they’re all from Class 2. But if a team from Rappahannock County makes the semifinals, then the highest-seeded Class 2 team that was eliminated in the first round will move on to the region tournament.
The same principle applies to individual sports. For example, in track, it’s the top six Class 2 people in each event that will advance to the region meet. So if someone from Clarke County finished seventh, that athlete could still be moving on if one of the finishers ahead of them is from Rappahannock County.
Clarke County director of athletics Casey Childs said it made more sense to the athletic directors in Class 2, Region B to not let all the teams into its region tournament, because it would have been difficult to seed them appropriately since the Shenandoah District has two more schools than the Bull Run does in the region.
The Shenandoah District also has two Class 1 schools that factor into its regular season scheduling.
“We’re not going to be able to play one another [in the regular season], because the Shenandoah District is so big that their out-of-district schedule is going to be so small,” Childs said. “You really can’t get a true measure of who should be seeded where because of that, so the only fair way to do it is take our top four and their top four and play.”
For all classifications, in football, the four region champions will play in the state semifinals. In the team sports of baseball, basketball softball, soccer, tennis and volleyball, the region finalists will advance to an eight-team state bracket.
In individual sports, for the most part, the VHSL is advancing the same number of teams and individuals to state competition as it did last year. The only reason why there are fewer teams advancing to state per region in golf and cross country is because there are more regions (four in each classification instead of two in each classification in the conference era).
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