There are 67 schools with boys volleyball programs this season in Arizona, and 24 of them will qualify for the state tournament (the top three teams in each of the six sections plus the next six at-large berths based on power rankings).
The curious part in all this being there is only one division, and while the expansion and depth of talent in the sport continues to grow annually, it also means many of the 67 schools are as far apart as can be.
Phoenix Day School for the Deaf is fielding a team despite an enrollment of approximately 86 students. Alta Vista and Desert Christian (both Tucson schools), along with Valley schools such as Paradise Honors, Scottsdale Christian and Kingman Academy, all have enrollments of 500 or fewer.
Those schools — and nearly two dozen more with enrollments between 1,000 and 2,000 — are competing with the largest schools in the state (Red Mountain, Mesa, Hamilton, Mountain View, Desert Vista, etc.).
The disparity begs the question as to whether another division could be added for the next two-year scheduling block beginning in 2015-2016, which many coaches expressed hope a Division II would be re-instated, as it existed throughout boys volleyball’s existence until a couple years ago.
But it won’t — and can’t — change in the interim, and so a season in which usual participants such as Highland, Brophy, Gilbert and Desert Vista want to talk about a state title, will be joined by Hamilton, Mesa, Perry and others even while the season is well underway.
Parity is prevalent with several schools being championship contenders, but 42 of those 67 schools have sub-2,000 enrollments, and many of them are worried parity only exists among the “big” 25.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune assistant managing editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.