New Jersey

DIAA still giving No. 3 St. Mark’s home-court advantage against No. 2 Royals

Second-placed Delmarva Christian must complete a 173-mile round trip Thursday night to compete on her home court in the girls’ DIAA volleyball semifinals against No. 3 St. Mark’s.

The competition is scheduled to start at 18:00, with the fifth-placed Caravel taking on Tower Hill No. 9 in the second semi-final.

St. Mark’s will play its home court in the semifinals for the fifth time in the last six seasons after the DIAA voted to make Pike Creek’s school the traditional host of the state Final Four.

However, the choice of location is in apparent contradiction to the philosophy with which the DIAA did not allow three state teams to play their quarterfinal games in Kent County on Tuesday. The games had briefly been moved to Smyrna, which was number 1.

“We have tried to be accommodating and attentive to teams from the southern part of the state who are traveling north and playing late on a school night,” DIAA executive director Donna Polk said in a press release. “Following the decision and change, the traditional neutral host site location was lost – we felt it was important to restore this tradition to all participating programs.”

When asked why this neutral site mandate did not still apply to the semifinals, the DIAA – through spokeswoman Allison May – said they were simply sticking with their original plan, with St. Mark’s as the site.

The tradition of St. Mark’s hosting the volleyball semifinals dates back to a time when the Catholic school had one of the largest gyms in the state and state programs rarely got past the first round of the tournament.

But that’s no longer the case as several schools across the state have large gyms and Smyrna and Delmarva Christian capture the top two seeds of this year’s tournament.

In its Volleyball Tournament Manual, the DIAA says, “All tournament locations are determined by the Volleyball Committee based on availability, geographic location, seating capacity, parking facilities, gymnasium condition, and team seedings.”

However, the DIAA volleyball committee continued to insist that Delmarva Christian and Caesar Rodney be sent to Wilmington, St. Elizabeth, for their quarterfinal game on Tuesday. Despite being No. 1, Smyrna played No. 9 Tower Hill at St. Mark’s in their quarterfinal match.

“If the tradition of neutral venues is really important, the winner of our game with CR doesn’t get sent to their home gym,” Delmarva Christian athletic director Keith Stonebraker said ahead of the quarterfinals.

Delmarva Christian is only the second school in the state and the first in Sussex County to reach the state semifinals in girls’ volleyball.

The state finals will be held Monday night at the Carpenter Center in Newark. With the tournament having a third place match before the final, the royals can make that trip no matter what happens on Thursday night.

Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at [email protected]

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