Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Plano East softball, once No. 4 in nation, won't make playoffs
To get her team ready for district play, Plano softball coach Cynthia Zea loaded up her team’s nondistrict schedule with some of the area’s toughest teams. But then the University Interscholastic League unveiled its new two-year alignment.
“I had to change all those teams,” Zea said, “because they all got moved into my district.”
A lot of them certainly did. Five teams from District 8-5A are in the latest Class 5A state top 25, with Plano (No. 2), Flower Mound Marcus (No. 8), Flower Mound (12), Hebron (21) and Plano East (23).
That’s pretty impressive -- and pretty painful for the district’s fifth-place team.
Sorry, Plano East. You might’ve been ranked No. 4 in the nation at one point this season. You might have wins over four teams (Marcus, Hebron, Mesquite Horn and Rowlett) currently in the 5A area rankings. But only four teams go to the playoffs from each district.
“That one is a shocker,” Zea said. “When we played East [on] Tuesday, they were as tough as any team we’ve played.”
Plano East, which finished 23-8 overall and 7-7 in 8-5A, was a tough team. It lost to Plano (30-3, 14-0) by scores of 2-1 and 3-2, and here’s an astounding statistic:
Plano East played 10 nondistrict opponents that qualified for the playoffs, and it won nine of those games.
If the 5A softball brackets were set up like the NCAA basketball tournament, Plano East would certainly get a bid, as well as a high seed in the monstrous 128-team bracket.
Some state athletic associations have experimented with point systems to determine playoff qualifiers and seeding, especially in football. With those point systems, totals are calculated with wins and losses, records of opponents, margins of victory, whether games go to overtime or extra innings and other factors. Some point systems give bonuses to a team for a win against a team from a higher class, such as a 4A beating a 5A.
In theory, it adds fairness. But in practice, it can be a mess for athletic associations to track scores, calculate points and finalize brackets. It can also create a scheduling nightmare for coaches as they try to find a blend of opponents to prepare their team for the playoffs and build enough points to qualify for the playoffs.
The UIL won’t use a points system to determine playoff qualifiers anytime soon. It already allows four playoff teams from each district in 4A and 5A and three from each district in 1A, 2A and 3A. That’s how it makes sure that worthy playoff teams don’t get left out.
Most of the time, anyway. Zea, in her ninth year as Plano coach, has never played in such a strong softball district.
“It seems like 8-5A has had good teams in every sport,” she said. “But in softball, it’s been unbelievable.”