The Vineyarder girls varsity lacrosse team ended its season last week with an 19-10 Division 2 South Sectional semifinal loss to Hanover High School at Hanover High school.
The match between the No. 1 seeded Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) girls varsity lacrosse team and four-seed Hanover last week also represented a break in the tradition of scheduling important semifinal and final-round games by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA), the authority which has overseen state high school athletics since 1978.
The June 11 match was the first time that a state tournament semifinal or final playoff game was not played at a neutral site, and was also the first time a higher seed was scheduled to play at a lower seed’s home field.
Seedings and sites for state tourneys in the past have been planned by the MIAA following a tradition that holds that lower seeds play at higher-seed fields in early rounds, on the theory that higher seeds have earned a home field advantage by virtue of success in regular-season play.The MIAA always has scheduled semifinal and final play at neutral sites.
This week the Times and MIAA officials exchanged phone calls and messages, but did not connect by deadline. But MVRHS athletic director Mark McCarthy’s explanation of what he was told by the MIAA about scheduling gives rise to the thought that we may see more changes in the MIAA seeding and siting policy.
“MIAA works to get schools to host games. Hosting is a lot of work, planning and expense for schools. There is revenue-sharing of ticket sales, but it is becoming more difficult to get host schools. This year, MIAA asked for volunteers to host with the proviso that if their school were in the tournament, the game would be played there anyway. I think they had trouble finding host schools this year, and that was an incentive,” he said.
This year, during the season, Hanover and Norwell volunteered to host, and Hanover made the semifinals in the tournament. “I asked them if they would move the game to Norwell, but they would not because of the proviso guaranteed,” McCarthy said.
“My interpretation is that the plan is an experiment in new policy for most sports: No longer neutral sites but predetermined sites. I don’t like it. MVRHS is not likely to be a site because of time and travel involved, and an MIAA preference for turf fields,” he said.
Taking the long view, McCarthy said the work being done to remake the Cape and Islands League could be important. “It might increase our influence and help us to get games closer to home. Sandwich, for example, would be accessible,” he said.
Like most sports professionals and fans, McCarthy believes in the “home field advantage” theory generally, but doubts it affected the outcome in Hanover. “I think that was just a case where Hanover was the better team that day,” he said.