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“Sideout” is out.

Rally points are in.

In one of the most sweeping changes to high school volleyball in years, the National Federation of State High School Associations has directed schools to begin using rally-point scoring in their matches. In rally scoring, points are awarded on each play, regardless of which team serves, as opposed to the traditional sideout system, where a team could only earn points when serving.

That means last season’s European champions — Würzburg, Black Forest Academy and London Central — will find the scene changed significantly as they try to defend their high school volleyball crowns.

The change will help align the prep game with college and international rules, according to Würzburg coach John Sullivan.

“Everybody [playing under NFHS rules] has to go to rally-point scoring next year,” Sullivan said. “We decided to start this year.”

Another significant change will be that teams must score 25 points to win a game, instead of the traditional 15 points. The fifth game in best-of-five matches will remain 15 points to win.

The new rules make a big difference in the game, said London Central coach Susan Payne.

“It becomes difficult to dominate,” she said. “Serving becomes vital.”

The service game looms large, Sullivan explained, because points are now at stake on every ball.

“Now, if you hit the ball into the net, you lose a point and the serve,” she said. “It allows a team to get back into a game more quickly.”

Both coaches agreed the changes will make games more competitive.

“The momentum changes quickly,” said Payne, whose Bobcats expect to be led by All-Europe hitter Nicole Lassetter, along with varsity returnees Erica Tibbetts and Stephanie Anderson.

Sullivan said he noticed a change at Saturday’s jamboree, where his Lady Wolves were matched against Division II champ Black Forest Academy, and Division II challenger Bitburg took on Division I power Heidelberg.

“Everyone was pretty close,” said Sullivan, whose team returns starters Amanda Randall, Jessica Branch, Erin Ortiz and Sarah Toth.

That’s good news for D-I regular-season champion Heidelberg, which said goodbye to three All-Europe players and most of its height, according to coach Rich Bennett. He welcomes back experience in Catie Arthur, Carissa Beach, Meagan Briggs Megan Brousseau, Alissa Dawson and Denise Rivera.

Black Forest coach Pat Woodward lost seven of the 10 players on last year’s title team, but retained All-Europe outside hitter Maria Golike, along with middle hitter Elaine Fowler and setter Susy Fisher.

“We expect stiff competition this year from a number schools,” Woodward said, “especially Bitburg, AFNORTH, Patch and Hanau.”

Challenging London Central in Division III-North will be Alconbury, with an incredible 20 players out for coach Lisa Westlake’s team, including sophomore starter Kristine Fernandez.

Aviano coach Hans Hillestad returns Erin Hassan, Alexa Wan and Bree Mariz. Hillestad expects another tough battle from Naples for Mediterranean honors in Vicenza on Oct. 25-27, where the Italy teams will be joined by Ankara and Incirlik.

In III-South, Baumholder’s Mike Reilly will start this season without All-European star Katie Feterl. He’ll count on Jill Cannizzo, Rodeo Gonzalez, Megan Madison, Kim Vandry and Shaundeen Benally.

Seniors Whitney Clemmons and Joanie Martinez will be the mainstays for Kathy Clemmons at Hohenfels, while Ansbach’s Monica Ownsby will lean on juniors Alison Hazen and Brittney Britton.

The European championships are scheduled for Oct. 30-Nov. 1 at Mannheim’s Benjamin Franklin Village Sports Arena.


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