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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 include:
•Gillespie and Staunton have replaced East Alton-Wood River and Marquette Catholic.
•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 tournaments and the postseason.
“It will 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.
Staunton was a rival to the Vandalia football program before leaving the conference a few years ago, and coach John Stout is happy to have them back.
“Staunton isn’t a long, long trip, but it’s hard to get there,” Stout said. “We had some good games with them before they left.”
Staunton is one of the contenders for this season’s SCC title, and the Vandals face the Bulldogs on the road in week four.
Gillespie has a rich football tradition, and the Miners are expected to finish in the middle of the conference.
“Gillespie ought to be pretty solid,” Stout said, “and they will give us some good football.”
Vandalia hosts Gillespie on Friday night at 7 p.m. in the season-opener.
Marquette Catholic would have been a team to beat in the SCC this season, and EAWR probably would have been one of the bottom finishers.
The Vandalia volleyball team’s outlook on games isn’t changing despite the lack of divisional play this fall.
“It doesn’t do a whole lot,” said coach Allison Smith. “I’m excited to get Staunton back, because they are always a competitive game.”
The Lady Vandals open their season at home against Staunton next Tuesday in what should be a decisive game in determining this season’s conference champion. Vandalia travels to Gillespie on Oct. 16.
The lack of divisional play does affect Vandalia’s schedule, however, as now there is just one game against Greenville. Pana, Litchfield and Hillsboro all remain on the schedule twice.
The Vandalia tennis team is helped by the conference re-alignment, because Marquette Catholic had the best team in the SCC.
“With Marquette not being there, it opens up the conference championship,” said coach Kevin Schroeder. “Year-in, year-out, they dominated our conference.”
With EAWR also dropping, it leaves just four tennis teams in the conference – Roxana, Greenville and Hillsboro being the others – and the team coaches of those teams have yet to define the criteria of crowning a champion.
Schroeder said that the remaining four teams should be able to compete with each other on a fairly even level every year.
“Roxana looks to be pretty good this fall,” Schroeder said. “With the four schools, it’ll be fun and very competitive.”
Both EAWR and Marquette appear on Vandalia’s schedule as non-conference foes.
The departure of Marquette is also a boost to the Vandalia golf team.
“It may help us a little bit, because Marquette has a fairly strong team,” Taylor said. “Staunton has a golf team, and we played them last year.”
The SCC Tournament remains at The Rail in Springfield, and it will be contested on Sept. 24.
Staunton and Gillespie will both join the conference in soccer, and that sport gets an added bonus, because Pana is starting its program this fall.
Marquette Catholic had always been one of the best teams in the conference, and coach Walt Kinney said seeing some new competition will be good for his team.
“Gillespie has always been competitive,” he said.
The Vandals play at Pana on Thursday, at Gillespie on Sept. 18 and at Staunton on Sept. 27.
EAWR appears on a non-conference opponent on Sept. 19.