For the first time in six years, the road to the postseason is murky in girls soccer. For soccer fans, murky means good. It means more soccer for us to watch.
Owners of girls soccer supremacy in these parts for years, Maria Carrillo and Montgomery split their league matches this year. Montgomery won 1-0 on Sept. 15 and Carrillo won 4-1 on Oct. 8.
They are co-champions of the North Bay League. But the North Coast Section only gives an automatic berth to the postseason tournament to one team. In boys soccer there is no playoff game. Head-to-head wins, then goal differential, then luck of the draw is used to break the tie.
Not in girls soccer. Ties are broken on the field. That contest is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Santa Rosa High.
In addition to the automatic berth, the outcome provides the NCS seeding committee one more nugget of information with which to determine seeding when they meet Sunday.
Thursday's game technically only determines who gets the automatic ticket to the tournament, but it’d be weird if it didn’t affect how the committee determines the final rankings. That said, the last time a playoff game was held, in 2009, Maria Carrillo won in penalties, yet Montgomery earned the top seed and went on to win the whole tournament.
So Carrillo coach Debra LaPrath says why play? The boys don’t break ties with a playoff game.
“The playoff is pure seeding. It has nothing to do with league,” she said. “We’ll both share the title, both get a pennant for the gym. All it does is change the seeding potentially.”
Potentially is the key word, according to LaPrath.
“NCS does whatever they want,” LaPrath said. “We are not in those meetings anymore.”
But the rule that a tie is broken by a playoff game was determined by the league, not NCS.
“The North Coast Section mandates that you have an automatic representative,” said Jan Smith Billing, NBL commissioner.
Having a tie or a three-way tie would be unfair to other leagues that might only get one automatic spot.
And Smith Billing said it’s better to play it out on the field than, say, draw straws or pull numbers from a hat.
“I like a playoff game,” she said. “I would rather determine that on the field.”
But LaPrath said the boys and girls ought to be handled in the same way.
I agree, but I say the girls have it right, not the boys.
Sports fans will remember last fall when Cardinal Newman’s football team tied with Rancho Cotate for the NBL title but Newman got the higher playoff seed because they drew a higher tiebreaker number at a preseason meeting of league officials.
So as far as playoffs were concerned, Newman was the top team despite having lost to Rancho in their one head-to-head matchup.
That seems weird. But the number-drawing routine works for football because officials say there is not time to pull off a mid-week “playoff” game in that sport.
Montgomery’s girls soccer coach Pat McDonald said rather than have the girls follow the boys’ lead, let the girls play.
More games? More good soccer.
“I think this is way better than drawing straws because what does drawing straws mean?” he said. “Let’s use it as a good contest to get some momentum going into the playoffs.”