It is with sadness that I have to report this news. Laguna Blanca Boys’ Tennis will not be in CIF Playoffs for a fourth consecutive season, despite showing superior performance over other teams that will be included.
As a freelance team, CIF requires 50% win-percentage to apply for an “at-large” bid and 80% win-percentage for automatic qualification into the playoffs. At 12-4, we came up one win short of 80%. Having had a great season, I still felt we had a good chance at being selected, but it was not to be.
CIF states that “at-large” bids will only fill empty spaces in the 32-team playoff draw and this year there were not empty spaces. In fact, 44 teams automatically qualified for the D4 playoffs by virtue of finishing 1st or 2nd in any of the 14 leagues, plus 3rd in leagues with 5-6 teams and 4th in leagues of 7-8 teams.
What does this mean?
- CIF rules make it essentially impossible for freelance teams to qualify unless they hit that magic 80% win-percentage.
- Two teams that we beat during the regular season (Santa Ynez, Lompoc) are in the D4 playoff draw, while we are not.
- A total of four teams that we beat (Santa Ynez, Lompoc, Rio Mesa, Nordhoff) are in the playoffs between D3-D5, while we are not.
- Based on CIF’s seeding list, which ranked us 10th or 11th in D4 through the entire second half of the season, at least 33 teams weaker than ours are competing in the playoffs, while we are not.
- Sometimes life and rulebooks are not fair.
What this does not mean is that we are not a playoff-caliber team. In fact, throughout the season, we have proved that not only are we a strong team, but also that we are willing to compete against other strong teams from our division and also up into higher divisions.
In total, we competed against eight playoff-bound teams (4 from D3, 3 from D4, 1 from D5) and went 4-4 in those matches. In addition, we convincingly won eight more matches during the course of the season.
Perhaps more importantly, we carried ourselves in a manner with which we can take pride. After beating Lompoc, their assistant coach came over to our huddle to congratulate us on our victory. He also took the time to tell us how impressed he was by the way we treated our opponents and that we were the most sportsmanlike team they had faced all season.
Failing to make the playoffs hurts and I’m sure it will take us a while to get over this. What’s important, though, is to recognize that this was not a season of failure. This was a season full of successes, both in match-play results and in character development. Learning to deal with the injustice of this situation is just one more opportunity to be better athletes and people than we were before. Taking this approach to sport and life, the best will always lie ahead. Go Owls!