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Vandal coaches talk about re-aligned SCC

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Changes to South Central Conference teams have some effect on Vandala's spring athletic squads

By Andrew Harner

VANDALIA – 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.

Baseball

Vandalia coach Luke Hohlt said the changes to the conference won’t change the way he wants the Vandals to approach each game.

“It doesn’t bother me at all,” Hohlt said. “Whoever you are playing against, you’ll still have to compete.”

Neither the Bulldogs or Miners boast a tremendously talented team, so both opponents should put Vandalia in a competitive matchup.

“Staunton started getting a lot better when they got out of the conference last time,” Hohlt said. “I have never coached against Gillespie, because every time we were supposed to, it got rained out.”

The first conference game is on March 29 against Carlinville.

Softball

The biggest impact of the conference re-alignment probably comes to the softball team.

With Marquette Catholic out, it means Vandalia will not have to face Alexis Silkwood, arguably the best pitcher in the state. She will play for Mississippi State in college.

Otherwise, coach Brian Buscher said the lack of divisional play will likely make for better competition.

“With going to just one big conference instead of split sides, it will leave things wide open,” he said. “The west side of the conference is pretty good in softball, not to say that the east side isn’t good, too.”

Gillespie was regional champion last season, and Buscher said it “traditionally” has a good softball program, and the last time Vandalia and Staunton played, it was a one-run game.

The first conference game is on March 29 against Carlinville.

Track and Field

When comes to track and field and the conference, the biggest issues that arises is that the conference schools don’t match up with schools in Vandalia’s sectional.

With the re-alignment, that will not change.

“Most of the conference is still to the west, but the sectional is to east,” said boys coach Jane Bell.

Each Staunton and Gillespie field both boys and girls track programs.