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Korean league tries a new postseason format

Osan spikers Maddie Taylor and Maja Inthavixay go through blocking drills with Cougars assistant coach and base team player Josh Aguirre during practice Wednesday. Osan hosts the KAIAC Plate tournament Friday and Saturday.

DAVE ORNAUER/STARS AND STRIPES

By DAVE ORNAUER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 25, 2018

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea – Things were becoming too predictable in Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Council tournaments.

Teams in their respective divisions were already facing the same teams twice during the regular season, so outcomes of tournament matches were often not surprising, according to many coaches.

So the league is trying a format in which teams with winning records regardless of division face each other in KAIAC Cup volleyball tournaments, and teams with sub-.500 records take on each other in KAIAC Plate tournaments.

“It was becoming a foregone conclusion how everything was going to go” in the KAIAC Blue, Red and White Division tournaments, KAIAC president Linda Concepcion said.

Teams, coaches and athletics directors thus “wanted to see different teams” than they had in the regular season “and do it in a way that there would be more competitiveness. Like competition, in other words,” Concepcion said.

Under the Cup and Plate format, the top three teams in KAIAC Blue and Red and the top two in KAIAC White square off in the Cup tournaments, while the rest play in the Plate tournaments.

DODEA-Korea member schools are playing in both the boys and girls Plate tournaments on Friday and Saturday, the boys at Chadwick and the girls at Osan.

The girls Cup tournament is at Seoul International, and the boys Cup tournament is at Dwight, one of KAIAC’s newer member schools.

A handful of KAIAC schools proposed the change in the fall of 2017, Concepcion said, hoping to ensure the new format would provide “an opportunity to have more competitive games” in the tournaments. “The vote was nearly unanimous” in favor of the change, Concepcion said.

KAIAC will try the new format “for this school year,” then make a decision at its May board meeting whether to continue or try something else, Concepcion said.

Cougars girls volleyball players said they were looking forward to trying on the new format for size.

“It will be more challenging to the team in general,” senior outside hitter Lizzy White said. “If there’s a team we haven’t played and they’re good, we have to prepare ourselves for anything and rise to the occasion.”

“It will be interesting,” Cougars middle blocker Maja Inthavixay said. “Like changing things up. You can’t predict the outcome.”

This is the second and last major weekend of district championship tournaments before Far East week Nov. 4-10.

KAIAC’s cross country championship meet is Saturday at 10 a.m. at Gyeonggi Suwon. Okinawa’s finals are at 4 p.m. Friday at Cape Zama just west of Torii Station, and the Kanto Plain finals are at 10 a.m. Saturday at Tama Hills Recreation Center in Tokyo’s western suburbs.

KAIAC’s tennis tournaments also take place this weekend, the Blue Division tournament featuring Seoul American at Seoul Foreign School and the Red Division featuring Osan, Humphreys and Daegu at Chadwick.

The last league championship tournament prior to Far East is the Kanto Plain tennis finals, scheduled for Tuesday at the Shirako Tennis Center - about 2½ hours east of Tokyo.

ornauer.dave@stripes.com

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