The Puyallup School District is going through some change in the athletics department as Emerald Ridge, Puyallup and Rogers high schools are all joining a new-look 4A South Puget Sound League next year.
“We’re still going into meetings and trying to figure some of the extra details out,” district athletic director Rick Wells said. “We’re still figuring out who’s going to be commissioner for each sport. With a 17-team league (like the SPSL North and South), it was easier to divide the responsibilities of each sport evenly amongst the schools.
“But what we’re dealing with is athletic directors having to take on two or more sports, and that’s an added responsibility we haven’t had in a long time.”
The responsibilities will be different for the local athletic directors over the next four school years (2016-2020) as all three local high schools join the new SPSL.
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“It will be the same league, just a different look,” Puyallup athletic director Jim Meyerhoff said.
All three Puyallup schools along with Graham-Kapowsin and Curtis will be joined from 3A SPSL Sumner, and Bellarmine Prep, Olympia and South Kitsap from the 4A Narrows. The new 4A SPSL will be a nine-school league, matching that of the new 3A SPSL.
“It’s exciting as we’ll get to see some unique challenges next year,” Emerald Ridge athletic director Jesse Kase said. “I know our coaches are excited about the possibilities they’ll have in the next few years … volleyball in particular looks interesting as they (Bellarmine) beat us a few times in the finals.”
Going into next year, the SPSL will have the last five volleyball state champions (Olympia 2011, Bellarmine 2012-2014 and Curtis 2015) and the last three second-place teams (Curtis 2013, Emerald Ridge 2014-2015), making the league one of the best in the state.
“We think it’s going to be a tough league, no doubt, but we think we’ll be able to compete in a lot of sports,” Kase said.
Having both Bellarmine, Olympia and Sumner football teams join the league is going to make it tough for the Puyallup squads as they now face even greater odds than top-ranked Graham-Kapowsin.
With both Emerald Ridge and Rogers looking for rebound season and Puyallup just missing the playoffs, it’s going to be that much tougher to get in. Especially with a league schedule that doesn’t leave room for error.
As of now, it looks like of the 10 games each team plays each season, nine of those games are projected to be league games, with one bye week. The bye is often filled with a nonleague game.
“It makes it tough because many of the teams have traditional rivalries that they’d like to keep. Bellarmine has its rivals with the Tacoma schools I’m sure they’ll want to keep, but the way it looks is that each school will be given one bye, and they can choose to fill it with one of those games,” Wells said.
But the added challenges with the new schools will be one to watch next year.
“It’s definitely going to be tough for us having those schools brought into the league, but I’m sure the coaches will be prepared to face these teams. And we already do in some of our sports,” Rogers AD Peter Collins said. “We’ll get our wins in there, too.”
And as the added talent coming into the new-look SPSL, so will the chance for growth amongst the schools.
With South Kitsap (2,024.38) atop the state in projected enrollment numbers, and Puyallup (No. 3; 1,903.11) and Rogers (No. 7; 1,743.09) not far behind, there’s not going to be a shortage on talent in the SPSL.
And think of this before the beginning of the spring athletic season: The last three state baseball champions (South Kitsap 2013 and 2015, Puyallup 2014) will be out of the new league.
“That will be interesting, and I know (Puyallup coach) Marc Wiese is excited to see that they’re in the same league,” Meyerhoff said.
There will be many possibilities in the coming future, but when it’s all said and done, the new-look 4A South Puget Sound League might have a new ring to it.
“It might become known as the league of champions,” Wells joked. “There’s been a champion in just about every season, so we just might become known as that.”