New CIF Playoff Format Released for Fall Team Sports
The Southern Section CIF announced the new fall 2016 playoff assignments for Laguna’s four fall team sports: football, girls tennis and volleyball and boys water polo. Winter and spring assignments will be issued later.
Team sports other than track/cross county, swimming, and golf will now be placed into divisions based on several factors including regular season record, the strength of the schedule and playoff performance over the previous two seasons. Breakers will be entering their 83rd year of competition and have competed in the past under a number of playoff formats.
For most of the years, playoffs divisions were based on a subjective placement based on the SS CIF’s perception of the strength of the entire league by sport regardless of school size. This is why some Laguna sports would be in completely different divisions. To be selected for the playoffs, Laguna would have to win the league title and since the 1960s, CIF has expanded the automatic qualifying to now include the top three schools in a five or six team league.
Early in Laguna’s history and from 1996-97 through 2005-06 playoff placement was based on individual school enrollment with like size schools competing against each other. Starting this season, each school will be assigned a playoff division independent of the other schools in their league.
How Laguna has fared in the past:
Breakers have won 42 Southern Section titles, six State CIF Regional titles, and three State CIF titles. The regional and state titles were in enrollment based divisions. The 42 section titles breakout as follows: 11 at the highest most competitive level, 11 on enrollment, 20 in lower divisions based on “league equity”.
In the new placement, girls tennis will compete in Division 1 of five, girls volleyball in Division 2 out of 10 and boys water polo Division 2 out of seven.
All three sports are expected to easily win league, however playoff success will be a challenge. Girls tennis had been in Division 2 the past four seasons, only advancing to the second round last year. Girls volleyball had been in the equivalent of Division 3 the last two years, reaching the semifinals last year so the bump to two was not unexpected.
Boys water polo will be in a very challenging group with a number of familiar programs from the recent past playoffs and should reach at-least quarterfinals.
Football Division 13 out of 13
After over 50 years, football is finally in a more balanced competitive playoff division. However, unlike the other three fall team sports, finishing first, second, or third in league play is no guarantee to be selected for the playoffs. D13 has 84 schools from 35 different leagues with only the top 16 schools going to the playoffs. SSCIF plans to fill the slots with all eligible first place league teams followed by any second place teams. If spaces remain, the remaining slots will be filled from eligible third place teams (must be in a five-team or larger league). Many of the schools in D13 are the long-term doormats in their league so unless they have the ultimate breakout season, they won’t see the playoffs.
Breakers could make it with a third place finish under new head coach John Shanahan with the non-league schedule including three D13 schools, one D12, and one D7. All league teams are either D12 or D13.
How Laguna will do under the new playoff system:
CIF will experience growing pains in trying to gauge the number of automatic qualifying teams in the lower divisions. Breakers could struggle in a number of their marquee sports.