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YAIAA teams flourished in the 2016-17 postseason. Why?

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It was an unprecedented year in YAIAA sports — particularly in terms of teams' postseason successes. 

Certainly expanded classifications played a role in more teams qualifying for the playoffs, and then making a run once they got there. It's no knock — it just undoubtedly played a factor. 

Playoff expansion means more chances for more programs, and that can lead to more championship opportunities. It's simple math.

In sports that saw a classification increase in 2017, 100 York-Adams area teams qualified for district tournaments, compared to 88 the year before. Ditto for state tournament competition — 35 in 2017, compared to 20 in 2016.

"It certainly gives more schools opportunities and you're going to create more state champions. That's self-evident," former South Western High School football coach and athletic director Don Seidenstricker said.

With that, Seidenstricker said he has long been a proponent of expanding classifications in Pennsylvania. Seidenstricker said when he coached the Mustangs' football program, South Western was typically one of the smaller Class 4A programs in the state, and that such disparity came to the forefront in the postseason.

"I'm speaking from a point of perspective that's near and dear to my heart," he quipped.

He said expanded classifications were a reason teams saw a postseason surge this year, but added it was just a contributing factor. He also pointed to quality coaching, hard work from players, and simply improved play on the field as all elements to the playoff uptick.

He added that more chances for student-athletes to perform on the postseason stage is not a negative thing.

"It's good for the kids, it's good for the sports, and it's good for the YAIAA," Seidenstricker said. "In that order."

Kennard-Dale had a record-breaking year in 2017. The Rams played for three district titles during the spring — softball, girls' lacrosse and baseball. Softball won the district championship, while the Rams became the first District 3 girls' lacrosse team to play for a state title.

"It was really neat. It meant a lot to the community and the school," said Kennard-Dale athletic director Gary McChalicher. "It was something everyone was talking about. From faculty, to parents, to students. Everyone was just very proud." 

Watch: Kennard-Dale walks off -- and into District 3 title game
Rams get late rally, extra-inning win over West York in district semifinals.
(Teddy Feinberg/

McChalicher was quick to point to the talent level of Rams' student-athletes, as well as the school's coaching staffs as primary reasons for those postseason runs. He also said the expanded classifications certainly aided in such efforts.

"It helped us a lot," McChalicher said. "In the past, we would have been playing against not just the 4A schools, but also the 5A schools. When we got to districts, we weren't playing against as many schools. There weren't as many to go through."

Here's a look at what sports saw a classification increase, and what YAIAA teams flourished in their postseason journeys:

Moved from four classifications to six

2016 postseason: Nine teams reached the district postseason. They combined for three wins while three teams – Fairfield, Biglerville and Spring Grove – won one postseason game each and reached the quarterfinals. No teams qualified for the state tournament.
2017 postseason: While just seven teams reached the district tournament, they combined for nine wins. Five teams reached the semifinals, two teams (Kennard-Dale in Class 4A and Dallastown in Class 6A) played for district championships, and Dallastown won a district title. They weren’t done there, either. While just three teams reached the state tournament, two of them made a sizeable impact. West York won its first-round game, 7-3, over Bonner/Prendergast before falling 2-0 to eventual state champion Dallas. And we all know Dallastown’s story: The Wildcats rolled the competition on their way to the Class 6A title game, before falling 1-0 to Pennsbury in what could be considered an instant classic.
Conclusion: Clearly the expanded classifications made a difference. West York was the 10th and final team to qualify for the District 3 Class 4A tournament with a .566 power rating. That would have left the Bulldogs on the outside looking in on last year’s Class 3A district competition (which the Bulldogs competed in during 2016). The Kennard-Dale baseball team was one of three programs at the school this spring to play for a district championship in the newly-aligned Class 4A. Take nothing away from the Wildcats, however: When you’re doing it on the 6A level, you’re doing it on the highest level. That’s nothing to shrug at.

Watch: Tough title loss doesn't take away from Dallastown's season
Dallastown baseball transformed its program during a 20-game winning streak that led it to a state final appearance. But Pennsbury walked away with the gold medal, scoring with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Jim Seip, GameTimePA

Moved from four classifications to six

2016 postseason: Seven teams reached the district tournament with two of them (Delone Catholic and Dallastown) making the district semifinals. Dallastown was the lone YAIAA team to make the state tournament, falling to Perkiomen Valley in the first round.
2017 postseason: Eleven teams reached the district tournament. Four of those teams played for district titles including an all-YAIAA matchup in Class 4A – Kennard-Dale vs. Eastern York. The Rams were victorious in that championship game, as was Fairfield in Class 2A. Spring Grove was a second-place finisher in District 3 Class 5A and Central York placed third in the Class 6A bracket. Five teams made the state tournament, with Fairfield, Kennard-Dale and Eastern York each winning a game.
Conclusion: Fairfield didn’t win YAIAA Division IV – that distinction went to Delone Catholic – yet won a District 3 Class 2A title. It was the Green Knights' first district softball title in school history. For Kennard-Dale, it was the Rams' first district championship since 1990. And Eastern York reached the state tournament for the first time in program history. A year of firsts, in many respects, for some YAIAA softball programs.

Watch: Kennard-Dale looking forward to next season
The Kennard-Dale softball team will bring back most of its lineup after winning a District 3 title and reaching the PIAA playoffs this season.
Matt Allibone

Boys’ basketball
Moved from four classifications to six
2016 postseason:
Make no mistake – the 2016 district postseason was a successful one for area boys’ basketball. Thirteen teams made the District 3 playoffs. They combined to win 14 games total, with three teams reaching title games and one (York Country Day in Class 1A) taking home a District 3 championship. The PIAA tournament wasn’t as kind however: Five teams reached states, with one win coming from the Greyhounds.
2017 postseason: Talk about building off that surge of respectability. This past winter saw 11 YAIAA teams reach the District 3 playoffs and two take home championships (York Country Day in Class 1A; Northeastern in Class 5A). Northeastern and Spring Grove met in the Class 5A semifinals, while York Catholic was a third-place finisher in Class 3A. Things really took off in states, however. York Country Day made a run to the Class 1A quarterfinals. Ditto for Spring Grove in Class 5A. But Northeastern continued as the 5A headliner, reaching the PIAA semifinals. That performance included an 86-84 double-overtime victory over Archbishop Carroll in the quarterfinals.
Conclusion: The Bobcats broke through, going from underachievers on the playoff stage to flourishing in what’s now the second-largest classification in the state. Spring Grove also made history, picking up the program's first-ever state playoff win. Certainly we don’t want to pin all that on the re-shuffling of the deck, but such factors couldn't have hurt, either. Two years ago, the Bobcats and Rockets played in Class 4A, the largest classification at the time. Now in Class 5A, they avoid powerhouses — and much larger schools — such as Reading and Harrisburg. Don't misinterpret — they were great teams that had great years. They were also appropriately positioned to do so.

Watch: Northeastern wins in double overtime
The Northeastern boys' basketball team overcame a 15-point, fourth-quarter deficit to defeat Archbishop Carroll in double overtime Saturday, March 18, 2017.
Jim Seip,

Girls’ basketball
Moved from four classifications to six

2016 postseason: Similar to the boys’ side of the spectrum, the 2016 district postseason was successful for YAIAA girls’ basketball teams. Nine clubs total went to districts, yet none won a championship. The York Catholic girls reached the Class 2A championship and Delone Catholic finished third in the Class 2A bracket. As for states, four teams qualified and just one pulled off a victory – the Irish in Class 2A.
2017 postseason: Eleven teams made the 2017 district tournaments, combining for 14 wins, four semifinal appearances and two championships (York Catholic in Class 3A, Susquehannock in Class 5A). And it didn’t stop there. York Catholic and Susquehannock each made runs to the state semifinals. Delone Catholic (Class 2A), New Oxford (Class 5A) and Central York (Class 6A) all won state tournament games as well.
Conclusion: It was some record-breaking seasons for some of our long-standing programs. Susquehannock had never won a District 3 championship or advanced to the state semifinals – ever. The Warriors completed the feat in a challenging Class 5A bracket, grabbing a District 3 title-game win over a talented Harrisburg squad. As for New Oxford, it was the Colonials’ first-ever state tournament victory. York Catholic has made a habit of winning District 3 tournament titles and going on PIAA tournament runs, regardless of classification. This season's edition featured an Irish win over undefeated St. Basil Academy in the state quarterfinals.

Watch: Susquehannock celebrates successful season
Warriors fall in PIAA semifinals, reflect on state playoff run.
(Teddy Feinberg/

Girls’ lacrosse
Moved from one classification to two

2016 postseason: Kennard-Dale became the first YAIAA girls' lacrosse team to ever win a District 3 championship, beating Exeter Township 12-8. They were the lone YAIAA program to qualify for the state tournament.
2017 postseason: Kennard-Dale and Susquehannock faced off in the newly-formed Class 2A District 3 title game. The Warriors won the crown, taking home a 13-12 thriller. In states, those two teams faced off again with the Rams exacting revenge – a 15-7 triumph that propelled Kennard-Dale into the Class 2A state title game.
Conclusion: Nine YAIAA teams total made the Class 2A and Class 3A district competitions in 2017 after six qualified the year before. As for Kennard-Dale, the Rams became the first District 3 team to ever reach a state title game. They eventually fell to powerhouse Radnor.

Watch: Father battling cancer watches daughter's title game
Scott Swegon, who was admitted to the hospital earlier this week, was able to travel and cheer on his daughter in the Pennsylvania state championship lacrosse game Saturday, June 10, 2017.
Jim Seip, YDR

Boys’ lacrosse
Moved from one classification to two

2016 postseason: Four YAIAA teams qualified for the District 3 tournament, with the one victory recorded by York Catholic.
2017 postseason: Nine teams were District 3 qualifiers, with six winning games. The most impressive was Eastern York, which reached the Class 2A semifinals and finished third in the bracket. That performance granted the Golden Knights a state tournament berth.
Conclusion: Eastern York’s PIAA tournament appearance was the first ever by a YAIAA team. They made their run by reaching the District 3 semifinals and finishing third overall in the bracket. The No. 12-seeded Golden Knights beat fellow YAIAA program Susquehannock in the opening round (9-7 final score) before topping No. 4 Trinity (12-10) in the quarterfinals and No. 10 Lower Daupin (14-5) in the third-place game. Talk about getting hot at the right time.

Boys’ soccer
Moved from three classifications to four

2016 postseason: Six teams reached districts with two playing for titles (Gettysburg in Class 2A; Central York in Class 3A) and one finishing in third place (Susquehannock in Class 2A). Those three squads then qualified for states, with Gettysburg reaching the Class 2A quarterfinals and Susquehannock reaching the Class 2A semifinals. Central York fell in the opening round of the Class 3A bracket.
2017 postseason: Nine teams qualified for districts, grabbing nine wins and two title-game appearances (Biglerville in Class 2A and Gettysburg in Class 3A). Central York finished third in the Class 4A bracket. Just two teams qualified for the state tournament – Biglerville and Gettysburg – with the Warriors advancing to the Class 3A semifinals.
Conclusion: Very comparable output from the year before. Then again, it was a bump up in just one classification.

Girls’ soccer
Moved from three classifications to four

2016 postseason: Eight teams made the district tournament, with York Catholic reaching the Class 1A title game and Susquehannock reaching the Class 2A semifinals. The Irish and Warriors both advanced to the state tournament, and each were eliminated in the quarterfinals.
2017 postseason: Massive tip of the hat to Fairfield, which won District 3 and PIAA championships in Class 1A. Nine YAIAA teams qualified for districts, with Fairfield and York Catholic the only two that headed to states. The Green Knights beat the Irish in the district championship.
Conclusion: Take nothing away from the Green Knights' historic season and PIAA title. They played up in competition throughout the year, and a state championship is a state championship. They ran the gauntlet and were a great team.

Watch: Fairfield celebrates first state title
Fairfield head coach Phomma Phanhthy discusses what winning the school's first state title means to the community.
Matt Allibone

Girls’ volleyball
Moved from three classifications to four

2016 postseason: YAIAA teams shined, with 10 qualifying for the District 3 tournament. They combined for 15 wins, three title-match appearances (York Catholic in Class 1A, Delone Catholic in Class 2A, and Central York in Class 3A) and one championship (York Catholic). Those three teams went to the PIAA tournament, with each winning one game before getting bounced in the semifinals.
2017 postseason: They were back at it this year, only a touch stronger: 11 teams in districts, 14 wins combined, along with three title matches (York Catholic and Delone Catholic in Class 2A, and Red Lion in Class 3A) and two champions (Delone Catholic and Red Lion). Four teams qualified for states, yet it was West York that captured all the wins, advancing to the PIAA Class 3A semifinals.
Conclusion: Red Lion won its first District 3 girls' volleyball championship in program history. West York's playoff run marked the best season ever for the Bulldogs as well.

Field hockey
Moved from two classifications to three

2016 postseason: Not much to write home about. Seven teams reached districts, combining for three wins and one quarterfinals appearance (Bermudian Springs, Class 2A). No team qualified for the PIAA tournament.
2017 postseason: Not much better. Six teams qualified for districts, totaling four wins and two quarterfinals appearances (Gettysburg and New Oxford in Class 2A). Hey, at least a team made states – Gettysburg, which fell in Round 1.
Conclusion: Nothing to draw from.

Moved from four classifications to six

2016 postseason: Nine teams made districts with just two winning: York Catholic grabbed a victory to reach the Class 2A semifinals while Biglervlle captured a win in the Class 2A bracket over Hanover to reach Round 2. The Irish reached the PIAA tournament.
2017 postseason: Seven teams reached districts and there was a district champion, York Catholic. And while it was a historic moment for a talented team, it also came with an caveat: The Class 2A bracket was literally just the title game, as the Irish advanced immediately to the championship and beat Newport, 51-21. They were the only YAIAA team to grab a playoff win. Red Lion (13-7 loss to Central Dauphin in Class 6A) and Northeastern (25-24 loss to Cocalico in Class 5A) both competed, yet fell short.
Conclusion: No matter how many classifications, our local squads are still looking for regional respect on the gridiron come playoff time.