Why Don’t High School Teams get the Benefit of Home Field Advantage?

ACP's undefeated volleyball team is headed to state. Why don't they get to play in front of a home crowd?

Between JV and Varsity, ACP had a .950 winning percentage on the year!

Between JV and Varsity, ACP had a .950 winning percentage on the year!

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This week, the ACP girls volleyball team will attempt to complete an undefeated regular season, 12-0, a feat which has only been accomplished once before in school history. The other team to do so, last year’s boys soccer team, was the number 1 team in the 3A conference. Come playoff time, what was their reward for a perfect season? Not home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but a neutral site game at Red Mountain Park, 30 minutes away from the school. After defeating River Valley in the first round, the team would lose to Yuma Catholic- again, at a neutral site, away from ACP. With the current system of state tournaments at a neutral site, ACP volleyball may suffer the same unfortunate fate.

To outline my point, let’s make a pro-con list.

The Case For Neutral Site Games

  • Logistics- This is the main point I can come up with. For the state tournament, you can have teams from Page to Bisbee playing each other. If teams from Page and Bisbee were matched up in the first round, one of those teams would have to travel 7-and-a-half hours to play the other. Having the state tournament at one site for two consecutive days allows teams from the outskirts of Arizona to only have to travel to one place and allows them to book a hotel and stay in that place. However, the Page-Bisbee scenario would be the most extreme of scenarios, and very unlikely.
  • Media- With the entire tournament taking place in one location, the AIA is able to easily stream their games and publicize them through social media.

The Case Against Neutral Site Games

  • Home-Field (or court) Advantage- When a team goes undefeated, they deserve to play their playoff games at home. This undeniably gives them an advantage, one that they have earned. Ask anyone who was at ACP three years ago when the 7th grade girls volleyball team played their championship game at Erie. The bleachers were fuller than I have ever seen, and the gym got louder than I have ever heard. The home crowd undoubtedly helped push ACP toward that EVC title.
  • The Student Body- It’s not every year that a team has a chance to make a deep run into the playoffs. When a team is good enough, the student body should be able to watch and enjoy their team’s winning ways. I would love to be able to watch our volleyball team battling with the best of the state at ACP, and I’m sure the girls would love to show their talent to the school. With the state tournament set up the way it is now, ACP will be stuck playing all their matches at Arcadia High School, located in Northeast Phoenix.

I understand the reasoning behind the neutral-site games; the added travel time is a hassle and an inconvenience. However, imagine yourself on our school’s volleyball team. Would you rather play your opening game in front of a handful of parents, or in front a couple hundred chanting Knights fans? This morale boost could be the advantage needed to push the team over the edge. Unfortunately, we won’t find out if this is true.