Athletes enter era of new DAL sports league
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Last year’s men’s water polo team was seeded fifth in NCS and pulled out an exciting first place finish. This year, the equally strong fall team was seeded 12th and struggled to make it to the second round.
This year’s sports competition has a different twist, as Northgate makes the transition to a new so-called “super-league”, the Diablo Athletic League (DAL). This comes following past years of being part of the Diablo Valley Athletic League.
The Diablo Athletic League was created as a combination of the former DVAL and Diablo Foothill (DFAL) athletic leagues. The new super league consists of 12 teams in the area: Acalanes, Alhambra, Berean, Campolindo, Clayton Valley, College Park, Concord, Las Lomas, Miramonte, Mt. Diablo, Northgate, and Ygnacio Valley. The DAL is also separated into two different conferences called the Valley conference and the Foothill conference.
The difference in ranking is a change in league formation that has put some Northgate teams in a higher athletic division of the league with more competitive play, and some teams in the lower division. “The new league gives the water polo team an opportunity to play against the best teams from the area and to compete with the most challenging teams on an even playing field,” stated Nik Gay, a senior who a varsity captain of the fall team.
The new concept in this league is that the conference alignment is allowed to be different for sports within a school. This allows for schools that may not be the best in football or basketball to compete in the top conference for another sport that they might excel at. This creates an even playing field for every single sport, instead of just for the most popular sports.
“The new league is good for Northgate because even if we might not be in the top division in one sport, we could still be in the top division in another sport that we are better at, which is especially the case with water polo here at Northgate,” athletic director Earl Paynton said.
That format was expected to be especially beneficial for Northgate’s men’s water polo team, which has been stuck in a lower division for the past few years despite all the team’s accomplishments, captain Nik Gay explained. It has not exactly been the smoothest transition though, with the team attaining a 0-4 league record so far, despite getting a 15-9 record overall.
It also provides relief for the Northgate football team, which often has been placed in games against schools much bigger and more populated, such as Clayton Valley Charter High School, that as dominated in local football. This helped the football team mightily as they ended with 3-1 league record.
“We had more of a chance to compete this year because we don’t face schools like Concord and Clayton, who went to the finals last year, which had many more players than us,” senior football captain Jackson Smith stated.
The Northgate wrestling team achieved some success as well in the new league, as they had a very strong season and finished the regular season with a 5-2 record.
The women’s tennis team, which competed in the fall, was definitely affected by the league transition, but it has not stopped them from reaching their goals. “It was no doubt more challenging on many levels, however we were still able to win the singles and doubles championships so I think we are placed where we should be,” head coach Rene Conroy said.
The men’s soccer team struggled in the new league, as they got out to a fantastic start but have yet to win a game through their first eight league games. The discrepancy between the team’s out-of-league record (7-0-3) and their record in the new league (0-4-6) tells the tale of how hard that transition has been this year. However, the non-conference success was enough to sway the NCS selection members, as they obtained an 8th seed in the upcoming 16-seed postseason tournament.
In theory, the two-division league should create better opportunities for athletics at Northgate. Not only does it allow some teams who were stuck in lower divisions but winning without much competition to thrive now, but it also allowed other teams such as the women’s’ volleyball to improve themselves in order to match up to the competition. “I feel this year was more rewarding, we were exposed to higher levels of playing, and that made us better players,” senior Marlena Ramanis explained.
The league format also leaves room for movement in the coming years so if a school’s performance in a certain sport changes, or if a school becomes drastically more populated than before, league administrators have the option to make a division adjustment.
“The new league even allows for movement if a school starts to trend upward and become worthy of a promotion to the upper division in that sport. The whole format is geared to make each sport have a completely even playing field,” Paynton said.