Tuesdays and Thursdays have long been reserved for volleyball in the Mid-Columbia Conference.
But the past couple of years, most MCC teams have been scheduled for Wednesday matches, drawing ire from the conference coaches.
“My athletic director mentioned something to me back in March, and I thought since it was just one week last year, that it was fine,” Southridge coach John Lengphounpraseut said. “I didn’t know it was going to be four weeks. I realized it the second week of practice. This is too extreme. It’s not so much winning and losing, but my kids go to school. That is an issue. We don’t give the kids time to recover.”
The revamped schedule this season has affected Southridge the most. The Suns have been scheduled to play on each of the four Wednesdays. In contrast, Richland has no Wednesday matches, Kamiakin has one, and Chiawana, Kennewick, Hanford and Walla Walla each have two. Pasco has three, but one of its own doing.
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Last week, the Suns played at Kamiakin on Tuesday, then turned around and played a five-set match at Chiawana on Wednesday.
“Tuesday, we didn’t walk out of the gym until 9:30,” Lengphounpraseut said. “They get home at 10, shower, eat and study, then get up and go to school the next morning. Two nights in a row is not acceptable. This can’t repeat itself. Are we there for the fans or the kids who are playing the sport? The health of my student-athletes comes before all else.”
Last year, Hanford found itself playing three Wednesday nights.
“It’s unfair to the girls,” Hanford coach Nichelle Meador said. “A couple of weeks ago, we went four (sets) with Pasco on Tuesday, then played five sets against Southridge the next day. That’s two big matches back-to-back, and they have no time to rest. It’s brutal on the girls. It’s beyond unacceptable.”
Chiawana athletic director John Cazier said there are times when events have to be moved.
“We have two Wednesdays on our schedule,” Cazier said. “Chiawana football was playing (at Kennewick on Sept. 29), and we did not want a schedule conflict. It’s Thursday football with the Lampson shuffle — three schools sharing one facility. Our second is with Pasco. Pasco has their open house on that Thursday (Oct. 13) and requested a change. Unfortunately, if you are hosting football on Thursday, there is no student body at the volleyball match.”
The Southridge volleyball and football teams have two Thursday conflicts this season, but the volleyball team was the Wednesday odd man out of the Kennewick schools all four weeks.
“I told my kids they have to be mentally strong,” Lengphounpraseut said. “We have two more weeks of this. We need to work together so this doesn’t happen again.”
Southridge AD Tim Wood knows his volleyball coach is not happy, and said he’s not pleased with the format, but indicated that some scenarios just don’t work.
“We tried a 1 p.m. football game on Saturday, and 90 percent of the people weren’t happy,” he said of the Sept. 3 game between the Suns and Wenatchee. “The volleyball coaches don’t want to play on Fridays. Soccer will play Thursdays when there is football, but that’s because of official availability. It’s frustrating. It’s on the table to be discussed at the league meeting at the end of the year.”
Wood noted that volleyball players in the summer play multiple matches a day with their club teams, and didn’t think the Tuesday-Wednesday schedule would be an issue. What wasn’t factored into the equation is that the players do not have school in the summer.
Cazier said the schedule is not ideal and that he would be willing to listen to options.
“Coach (Jim) Steach doesn’t like it,” Cazier said. “I don’t think any of the coaches like it. If both teams play Tuesday, neither has a chance to prepare, so they are in the same boat. It’s back-to-back school nights, and the kids don’t have time to study. That, to me, is something I don’t like to hear.”
One solution would be Friday night football doubleheaders. Spokane schools sharing Joe Albi Stadium make it work with kickoffs typically at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Another is a Saturday afternoon football game.
“The doubleheader is a good option, but which is the lesser evil?” Cazier said. “It’s a tricky decision to make. We could go at 5 p.m. for volleyball, but for families that work, it’s not ideal. There is always an angle to look at. What’s most important is our kids.”