Some unfortunate news for the York University Lions Women's Volleyball program. The CIS ruled on an OUA sanctioned forfeit of the squad's last match, an OUA quarter final game against RMC. The OUA had ruled the match a forfeit because The Lions had played transfer player Michelle Pierce. Pierce was a transfer player from The Windsor Lancers and as a transfer player, had to sit out a full year. Pierce did sit out the full year, that is not the violation being questioned. The violation committed is that every player that plays in a playoff match has to have played in or at least dressed for at least one regular season game. Because Pierce had to sit out a full year, she missed dressing for a regular season game by - two days.
York led the OUA for the entire season finishing with a record of 16-2 and they did this without the game play of Michelle Pierce. Both the transfer and the playoff roster rules seem fair. Rules like this are common in sports at both the professional and collegiate level. These rules are designed to help maintain balance and fairness when one player leaves one team to play for another. But there is something about this story that seems unfair.
OUA women's volleyball is the only conference and gender of CIS volleyball where the first ranked team at the end of regular season does not receive a bye into the second round. The number one teams from the Canada West, RSEQ and AUS conferences all receive a byes on both the men's and women's side of the game. This leaves me with a bit of an uneasy feeling. The Lions should have never played that match. They should be playing their first 2012 playoff game this upcoming weekend, at home. Even in the same conference, the OUA men's volleyball first ranked team gets a bye into the second round of playoffs. Why does the OUA have different playoff rules for each gender? This could have to do with the previous structure of OUA women's volleyball. Up until last year, OUA women's volleyball was split into an east and west division. During the first round of playoffs, the first seeded team in each division would play in a crossover against the fourth ranked team in the opposite division. This year, all the teams are in one division like the men, so why not structure the playoffs the same? Yes the women have more teams than the men, but only by three, hardly seems like a difference for playoffs.
Now the lack of a bye doesn't mean this whole mess would've been avoided. Pierce would have missed the entire regular season regardless of a first round bye. But this is definitely something for head coach Nick Tran to think about maybe bringing up in his appeal. With an extra seven days, would the York Lions Head Coach realized that he couldn't start Pierce and avoided this whole ordeal? It's impossible to say. The statement from the OUA says that York appealed the ruling. We will find out the result of their appeal tomorrow and I'll write an update then.
York was seeded #1 going into the next round of playoffs, they were set to host the final stages of the tournament. The hosting duties will now go to the next highest seed, Ottawa. Without the ruling getting overturned tomorrow, Ottawa will host Queen's, Toronto and RMC this weekend (February 24th and 25th) in the OUA women's volleyball final four.
While there is no official statement from The OUA regarding York's appeal, it appears that the ruling will not be overturned. York remains disqualified from this year's OUA playoffs and RMC will take their place in Ottawa.