PORTSMOUTH — Welcome back Lady Pirates to some familiar foes.
That’s because the Wheelersburg High School girls soccer program — of ALL of Scioto County’s fall sports teams in either football, volleyball and girls and boys soccer —was the only one to change divisions for the 2020 postseason tournaments, as officially announced on Friday from the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
Details were sent to member schools on Thursday, following action taken by the OHSAA Board of Directors during their April meeting on Wednesday.
The Board also approved new regional assignments for football, as ALL of the divisional assignments were publicly released on Friday.
Up until last season, the Lady Pirates had always been Division III in girls soccer, but with a roster totaling 29 and a competitive balance number of 12, it tossed Wheelersburg into Division II.
Wheelersburg’s enrollment for females in October of 2018 was 163, and its girls soccer adjusted enrollment for 2020 is 175.
The Lady Pirates’ 2019 roster included nine seniors, nine freshmen, eight sophomores and only three juniors.
The upcoming 2020-21 school year will be the second year of the two-year cycle using base enrollment numbers provided by the Ohio Department of Education in October 2018.
A new two-year cycle of base enrollment numbers will begin with the 2021-22 school year.
However, the competitive balance number is figured and subject to change on a yearly basis, and thus divisions and football regions can change as well.
Wheelersburg girls coach Todd Jarvis said he wanted to “still keep our roster, even though it caused us to move to Division II”.
“We look forward to returning to Division III. Our venture into Division II was a competitive balance issue. At this point, we want girls to play high school soccer and we don’t worry about competitive balance. But it will be nice to return to familiar competition,” he said. “We have had success and hope to continue to build on that success. And we look forward what the fall soccer season may bring.”
The Lady Pirates played one of the most memorable matches in program history last season —defeating visiting Athens inside Ed Miller Stadium with an epic shootout victory after a scoreless tie through regulation and two sudden-death overtimes.
That was in the Division II sectional semifinals, as they then fell at top-seeded and Southeastern Ohio powerhouse Fairfield Union in the sectional championship tilt.
Prior to last season, in addition to claiming at least a share of five consecutive Southern Ohio Conference championships (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019), the Lady Pirates captured three straight Division III district titles (2016, 2017, 2018).
Wheelersburg — along with Portsmouth West, Northwest and Minford — will represent Scioto County in Division III girls soccer this fall, while West is the only Division II boys county club.
In Division III boys, Wheelersburg, South Webster, Minford, Clay, Valley and New Boston — which were the top six seeds in last season’s sectional tournament and all played for sectional championships — remain in the smallest-school division, as do Northwest and Portsmouth.
South Webster was the regional runner-up, while Wheelersburg was the district runner-up.
There were no changes in volleyball divisions — as Wheelersburg, Minford, Northwest, Portsmouth, Valley and West will be back in Division III, while South Webster, Notre Dame, New Boston, Clay, Green and East return as Division IV.
Wheelersburg won its first-ever volleyball regional championship last season, rallying from a two-sets-to-none deficit and facing match point against Hiland, while South Webster and Notre Dame delivered Division IV district titles.
For football, Wheelersburg, Minford, Portsmouth, Northwest and West will return to Division V and Region 19, as the Pirates, Falcons and Trojans all qualified for the 2019 Region 19 state playoffs.
In fact, the Region 19 finalists also return —Ridgewood and Ironton — as Ironton advanced all the way to the Division V state championship bout.
Valley is the county’s only Division VI squad, and will change regions this year from 24 to 23 — as Region 23 features teams from the Southeast, Central and East districts.
Joining Valley in Region 23 will be Rock Hill and Fairland from the Ohio Valley Conference and Symmes Valley from the SOC I, as Rock Hill and Fairland drop down from Division V while the Vikings — the SOC I champion and playoff qualifier from a year ago — move up from Division VII.
Speaking of Division VII, Notre Dame, East and Green all remain in the smallest-school division —and in Region 27.
No longer in Region 27, though, is Harvest Prep —which jumped up two divisions to Division V, and will compete in an already-loaded Region 19.
The OHSAA did detail, in all of its new lists for fall divisions, that those lists of schools are NOT the final ones which will be eligible to participate in the 2020 tournaments —as schools have until early October to make changes to their tournament participation.
In addition, multi-high school districts that restructure their high schools are required to have their enrollment reclassified as of Sept. 10 — which may change their assigned tournament division.
No divisional changes will occur for the fall sports of golf, cross country, girls tennis and field hockey (one division), as those sports are not affected by the OHSAA’s competitive balance process.
Now, the big looming question is will there in fact be an OHSAA fall sports season in 2020?
With the threat of the coronavirus still heavy in Ohio, the OHSAA — a week ago — officially cancelled its spring sports seasons, as its mandatory dead period remains in effect thru at least Sunday, May 3.
There is widespread speculation that the same dead period will be extended until at least June 1, and perhaps as late as thru July 5.
The official date for mandatory fall sports practices to begin is Aug. 1.
Whenever competition can resume, the Lady Pirates are eager to get back on the pitch —and back competing against Division III’s familiar foes.
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Information from the Ohio High School Athletic Association was used in this story
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved