The implementation of rally scoring in high school volleyball across Washington a decade ago might’ve compared to going to the dentist for Selah High School coach Kay Aberle.
She and other longtime coaches statewide knew the change was coming, but that didn’t mean they were all excited about it.
“I was reluctant to give up the old way,” said Aberle, the Vikings’ coach since 1993.
This weekend’s state volleyball tournaments across Washington, including the 4A and 3A tournaments at Saint Martin’s University and the 2A tournament at Pierce College in Lakewood, mark the 10-year anniversary rally scoring came to the high school level.
Gone is traditional side-out scoring, a best-of-three to 15 points format. Also gone are the days when lengths of matches were predictable depending on the opponent, ranging from 30 minutes to sometimes 21/2 hours long, and when teams would sit at 5 points apiece for minutes at a time.
The change in scoring – and the addition of the libero, a back-row defensive specialist who wears a different colored jersey from her teammates – have been the most radical rule changes over the past 30 years. And to most coaches, it’s made for a better game and more excitement for fans.
“It’s the way to go,” said longtime Mead coach Judy Kight, who has led the Panthers to seven state championships during her 23-year tenure. “I can see how it’s a positive thing.”
The fall of 2003 was a big year of change for high school volleyball in Washington.
Earlier that year, the National Federation of State High School Association’s Volleyball Rules Committee affirmed the switch to rally scoring for high school volleyball by the 2004-05 season, but the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) and 21 other states’ associations began rally scoring that fall amidst a natural progression of the game at other levels; rally scoring had already been in the club level, as well as the college and professional ranks.
Pool play during Washington state tournaments also was eliminated in favor of championship and consolation rounds that year.
In rally scoring, two teams play the best three-out-of-five sets. Game-point through the first four sets is to 25 and a team must win by two points. The fifth and deciding set is played to 15 points, and again, a team must win by two.
Unlike traditional side-out scoring, rally scoring awards points after each play, regardless of which team serves. A missed serve means a point for the opposing team, as well as being awarded a serve, as opposed to just losing the serve as in side-out scoring. A “let serve,” a serve that hits the net and continues across the net into the opponent’s side of the court, means the ball is still in play as opposed to a re-serve.
Kight, like Aberle at Selah, was one of the veteran coaches who wasn’t initially thrilled with the impending changes in 2003.
Kight’s Mead program just earned fifth place at the 2002 4A state tournament and side-out scoring had its big moments for her team. During one of her team’s state appearances during the side-out scoring days, they trailed 14-1 in a set and came back to win it.
“That’s not going to happen in rally scoring, I’ll tell you that right now,” Kight said. “But side-out scoring, it did.”
Longtime Olympia coach Laurie Creighton had a similar story, but her team overcame the odds against a rally-scoring comeback. The Bears bested Kentwood last season, 23-25, 25-18, 14-25, 25-6, 15-13 to claim their second state title.
With the two teams tied at two sets apiece going into the fifth set, Olympia trailed Kentwood, 8-3, in the first-to-15 set.
The five-point deficit was steep, but the Bears rallied to join the 1998 Olympia team as state champions.
“It was nearly statically impossible for us to do what we did,” said Creighton, who is in her 34th season coaching the Bears with more than 700 career wins. “That’s super hard to come back in a 15-point rally score situation.”
When Olympia topped Aberle’s Selah team for the 1998 AA state title, Selah took the first set, 15-8, but the Bears – playing in front of a hometown crowd also at Saint Martin’s – won the final two sets, 15-12 and 15-12 to capture the program’s first state title in side-out scoring. Creighton remembers multiple occasions when her team was “so far behind” but caught up.
“It was just as exciting, but almost in a different way,” she said.
What all coaches agree upon with rally scoring is that’s it has added excitement for fans and created a more fan-friendly game. The fifth set to 15 points with a match on the line and teams scoring on every possession can create an electric atmosphere.
“Every point means something,” said North Thurston coach Micah McBride, who has led the volleyball program to its first state berth in 17 years. “It’s done leaps and bounds for the game.”
And for Aberle, who has won five state titles at Selah, just outside Yakima, she’s turned into a believer of rally scoring.
“I think it’s a better game,” she said. “I can’t imagine going back.”
STATE GIRLS VOLLEYBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS
4A and 3A at Saint Martin’s University and Timberline High School, Lacey
11:45 a.m. – Newport of Bellevue (17-2) vs. Emerald Ridge (16-3)
1:30 p.m. – Gig Harbor (15-5) vs. Jackson (15-1)
1:30 p.m. – Puyallup (13-5) vs. Richland (13-3)
1:30 p.m. – Lake Stevens (14-5) vs. Bellarmine Prep (18-1)
3:15 p.m. – Union (14-6) vs. Skyline (15-3)
3:15 p.m. – Olympia (12-7) vs. Wenatchee (14-2)
3:15 p.m. – Monroe (14-3) vs. Camas (16-2)
5:15 p.m. – Mead (14-0) vs. Auburn Riverside (13-5)
Quarterfinal matches continue today at 6:45 p.m., followed by Saturday semifinals at 3:15 p.m., and the championship match at 8:15 p.m.
8 a.m. – Auburn Mountainview (14-5) vs. Stanwood (12-5)
8 a.m. – Prairie (16-2) vs. Mercer Island (21-0)
8 a.m. – Holy Names (11-10) vs. Bonney Lake (12-3)
9:45 a.m. – Lakeside of Seattle (12-11) vs. Mount Spokane (14-2)
9:45 a.m. – Glacier Peak (12-6) vs. Mount Si (16-4)
9:45 a.m. – Timberline (16-3) vs. Southridge (15-6)
11:45 a.m. – North Thurston (14-4) vs. Shorewood (13-3)
11:45 a.m. – Columbia River (13-6) vs. Seattle Prep (17-4)
Quarterfinal matches continue today at 5:15 p.m., followed by Saturday semifinals at 1:30 p.m., and the championship match at 8:15 p.m.
2A at Pierce College and Lakes High School, Lakewood
11 a.m. – Capital (14-3) vs. West Valley of Yakima (15-1)
11 a.m. – Sumner (13-6) vs. Burlington-Edison (15-2)
12:45 p.m. – Sehome (14-4) vs. Washington (17-3)
12:45 p.m. – Selah (14-2) vs. White River (10-11)
2:45 p.m. – Anacortes (16-1) vs. Fife (17-2)
2:45 p.m. – Tumwater (17-0) vs. East Valley of Yakima (14-4)
4:30 p.m. – Mark Morris (10-8) vs. Colville (17-0)
4:30 p.m. – Steilacoom (10-10) vs. Sequim (18-1)
Quarterfinal matches continue today at 6:30 p.m., followed by Saturday semifinals at 12:30 p.m., and the championship match at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: Single day is $9 for adults, $7 for children and senior citizens. Tournament passes are $15 for adults, $10 for children and senior citizens.
Storylines: Class 4A – Watch out, not only is Mead the most successful 4A program in state history with seven championships – six coming in a seven-year span (2003-07, 2009) – the Panthers are highly motivated to put last year’s debacle to rest. After being defeated by Puyallup in the consolation round, they saw their run of 12 consecutive seasons of earning a state place come to an end. Their only loss this season was a best-of-three defeat to Central Catholic of Portland at the Kent Classic. … Jackson, the 2010 state champion, started the season ranked No. 17 in the country. And they are still outstanding, led by outside hitter Emmy Allen, the sister of coach Ashley Allen. They have won nine matches in a row – with their last defeat a best-of-three loss (25-20, 29-27) against Mead at the Spokane Crossover. … Bellarmine Prep emerged from the Narrows and West Central District unscathed, and poised to challenge the co-favorites behind outside hitter Courtney Schwan, The News Tribune’s two-time All-Area player of the year. … Defending champion Olympia is the No. 6 seed out of the West Central District tournament. Class 3A - Mercer Island is tall and loaded with experience with 10 seniors. The Islanders upended Mount Si for the Sea-King District title. … Speaking of the Wildcats, they have one of the best hitters in the tournament in junior Lyndsay Carr, who registered a school-record 37 kills in a district quarterfinal match against Eastside Catholic. Class 2A – Rarely will you see this – three reigning state champions all in the 16-school field of a state championship. West Valley of Yakima, the 3A champion, moves down – and has accomplished setter Julie Nathe (nearly 2,500 career assists) leading the way. And Colville, the 1A winner which has gone 99-3 in the past three seasons, moved up. Also, defending 2A champion Burlington-Edison made it back. Yet when it is all said and done, the winner could be Tumwater, ranked No. 1. The Thunderbirds have been in the title match three times since 2007, winning it all in 2008.Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 firstname.lastname@example.org www.theolympian.com/southsoundsports @megwochnick email@example.com