The revamped South Central Conference debuts this school year, and prior to each season, The Leader-Union will be asking Vandalia’s coaches how they think the changes will affect their team.
A list of all of the changes follows.
1) Gillespie and Staunton have replaced East Alton-Wood River and Marquette Catholic.
2) There will no longer be divisional play in any sport, with all teams that used to have divisions to play one game that counts in the conference standings.
The changes open up the possibility of a conference tournament in some sports in the future, and playing each team once will help teams in certain sports from playing each other up to five times in a season, including in tournaments and the postseason.
“It’ll put more weight on going places like Roxana, because it used to be that we had to do it, even though it didn’t count for much,” said Superintendent Rich Well. “Now, you have to make sure you’re ready to go every night, and that’s a good thing.”
There were other teams that would have been more convenient in terms of traveling, but when approached, they were not interested in switching conferences, Well said.
First-year coach Brian Buscher echoes Well’s thoughts, saying that the Vandals now cannot afford to slack off in any conference games.
“One game being a conference game tweaks it a little bit,” Buscher said. “Before, you could win the conference with a loss, or tie for the conference with two losses, and (no divisions) now it makes every game even more important.”
As for the new teams, last season, Staunton finished 17-14, and Gillespie had a 7-22 mark.
“Gillespie and Staunton, I don’t know a whole lot about,” Buscher said. “We haven’t played them in years, so I really hope to scout them before we play.”
Marquette Catholic would have been a contender for the conference championship this season. EAWR still appears on Vandalia’s schedule for a nonconference game.
Playing without divisions certainly seems like a benefit to the Vandalia girls basketball team.
During the past several seasons, the top teams in the conference have all been in the East Division along with the Lady Vandals, and coach Michelle McNary said that not having to play some of the powerhouse teams twice will be beneficial.
“Our side has been loaded,” McNary said. “Not playing some of those teams twice will be nice.”
Through tournaments and the postseason, teams in the conference can still meet more than once, and the Lady Vandals have nonconference games against Hillsboro and Pana.
McNary also said that the addition of Staunton and Gillespie will be good for the conference.
“Staunton has had some nice teams the past few years, and they will be a nice addition,” she said. “Gillespie is a team that has been improving.”
Neither Staunton or Gillespie have a wrestling program, so the loss of EAWR will leave the conference with five wrestling teams.
The Vandals will still wrestle against the Oilers in a tri-meet at Carlinville in January.